Good advice for most ramen shop chefs, and equally good advice for authors, is to avoid reading reviews on the internet. That said, the minute I picked up Ivan's new cookbook and memoir, I went straight to the 1-star reviews. Of course, when you see that there are only a handful, you realize that they are moot. Yes, this isn't a typical cookbook. Typical in the sense of hundreds and hundreds of recipes. But as far as ramen (in ramen shops) goes, any ramen shop with a massive menu covering the entire spread of the ramen world is gonna be a bad time.
Ivan Ramen, the book, is essentially an intense breakdown of what goes into a bowl of ramen. It is no surprise that the word obsession is in the title.
The book is half memoir, half recipes, and half about ramen culture in Japan. With a disheartening introduction by David Chang about how people don't get ramen.
The recipe is perfect. Ivan breaks down the components of ramen step by step. Ramen isn't a soup dish, where everything goes into a pot. Ramen is layers and layers. Focus on each individually, and tweak as needed. I love this approach, though it might be a little daunting for the casual home cook.
Of course, he gives recipes for some of his other dishes, as well as all the toppings. I think most home cooks will try to make the four cheese mazemen. I miss the four cheese mazemen, as Ivan Plus is now closed.
Hey, I'm in the book! Yep, that is me in the black t-shirt at the opening of Ivan Plus. I never signed a release! I want my royalties!
Along with an awesome shot of my bad posture are some excellent interviews with Osaki-san, the most famous ramen critic in Japan, and Shimazaki-san, the Rock and Roll ramen chef. These give a cool little insight into ramen culture in Japan. Most overseas food fans outside of Japan don't realize how big these names are.
I'm not an avid cookbook collector, but this one seems like a must-have for anyone who would ever consider making ramen at home. Hey, you could even outright steal the recipe and open your own shop, if you were so inclined.
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint
The book is only about $20 these days.
One of these days I'll start cooking at home. And when I do, I'll give this recipe a try. I'm curious to hear if any of my readers have tried the dishes in this book. Let me know!