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Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes From Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint

Reviewed by Jessi Cape, Fri., Dec. 6, 2013

Santa's Big Cookbook Bag

by Ivan Orkin
Ten Speed Press, 224 pp., $29.99

In one of the most oddly endearing and entertaining forewords of any cookbook I've read, David Chang says, as part of a "Hey Ivan!" note to the author, "What drew me to cooking ramen was – and I hate to use this term – the punk aesthetic. It was a contrarian stance. You take something deemed by the world as junk food and pour passion into it, and make it the most delicious food possible." It seems the city of Austin, with its unique mash-up of eccentricities and conformity, has latched onto the ramen bandwagon, and we couldn't possibly be any more fortunate with three dedicated ramen shops, each with its own lovely merits, and a growing number of ramen-inclusive restaurant menus. The word has spread, and Austinites crave the soup and noodles fanatically. Then we travel for the holidays to cities still blind to the deliciousness. And therein lies the beauty of this book. Perfectly suited for packing in a suitcase, or wrapping as a gift, the first half of Ivan Ramen is Orkin's personal ramen journey from budding line cook to massive success proves to be an interesting, witty read, full of great photos. Then, after rousing the reader's inner enthusiast, he gets straight to the point: "But there's no one formula for great ramen; that's why it's so fucking hard." He includes his entire shio ramen recipe, and many additional accompanying chapters including Fat, Menma, and Half-Cooked Eggs; and then he moves on to Now What?, Variations on a Noodle, and Sides and Sweets. Interesting recipes to try, aside from the down-and-dirty original: four cheese mazemen and ozoni (hello, New Year's).

Down-to-earth, funny, and endlessly mouthwatering, the contents of this cookbook will be studied and practiced for years to come, especially when I'm hanging out with real ramen-virgin family members.

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