The Austin Chronicle

Comic Book Cookbook Shows You How to Make Perfect Ramen

A step-by-step trip into the noodlicious and brothy world of ramen

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, August 2, 2019, Food

When things are annoying, it makes me want to eat comfort food.

One regularly annoying thing: Whenever someone writes a review that isn't negative, when it's even the slightest bit complimentary, it's usually referenced by the reviewee as "a rave review." Which is a combination of cliché and wishful thinking.

Rave review, my ass: I just didn't hate the thing.

Annoying, right?

And so, seeking comfort, I turn to food like, well, ramen. Because ramen, with all its noodly, brothy goodness, is about many things. And one of those things is, at least for me, comfort.

Spoiler alert: This review of Let's Make Ramen! by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan is a bona fide rave review.

You don't even need to want to make ramen to appreciate, to fall informationally and aesthetically in love with, this book. If you simply enjoy ramen as an eater-of-ramen, Amano and Becan's big, new, full-color paperback from Ten Speed Press will improve several parts of your life. That's because Let's Make Ramen! is "a comic book cookbook," as the subtitle goes, which means the whole thing is illustrated in full-on sequential art style; and that means that, when it's done well, it's the format to most effectively communicate whatever's under consideration. You can't beat a combination of words and pictures for transferring knowledge.

And holy ajitsuke tamago, is this thing done well! Amano is a professional chef and a professional writer – so he knows the culinary and the literary aspects, and he's exemplary at all of them.

That thing students are taught about constructing essays? "Tell them what you're going to tell them; tell them what you told them you were going to tell them; tell them what you told them," right? That's a system Amano has obviously internalized and can replicate smoothly and efficiently, with a bit of cheflike panache for greater delight. He covers – simply but without condescension – everything about ramen and how to make it, point by point until total comprehension is reached. And, see, he's not doing this alone: Becan is illustrating the complex lessons every step of the way.

Actual photos wouldn't work as well. We require the simplified visuals offered by cartooning to better parse the information – and Becan provides that in full. But, damn, that's an understatement: Just looking at her precise ink-brush-and-watercolor renderings of the tools, ingredients, and processes of ramen and the people involved in its creation is an art lover's dream. You could buy this book for the visual pleasure alone.

Together, writer Amano and artist Becan usher you into the whole noodlicious and brothy world of ramen, with pro tips and recipes aplenty. Hell, they even feature helpful commentary from some international ramen superstars (also depicted via Becan's graphic skills) to abet this tasty endeavor, to further assist your own potential explorations. So if you want to learn how to make ramen, this book is definitely your huckleberry. And if you just want to know more about the ramen you enjoy having others make for you, then ditto.

And yes – slurp – that's a rave review.

Let's Make Ramen!

by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan
Ten Speed Press, 92 pp., $19.99

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