Chefs are storytellers by nature. Each bite, each dish, each menu contains an autobiographical imprint. Whether it’s their childhood dinner table or first visit oversees, chefs want us to listen through each pleasurable taste and come back asking for more. The Mind of a Chef brings you a new web series, Taste Memories, where we bring to life the tales of chefs with unique voices, both inside and outside their kitchens. We explore what makes them tick, what drives them crazy, and how they got to where they are today.
A man and his obsession with one dish: ramen.
In 2007, Ivan Orkin, a middle-aged Jewish guy from Long Island, did something crazy. In the food-zealous, insular megalopolis of Tokyo, Ivan opened a ramen shop. He was a gaijin (foreigner), trying to make his name in a place that is fiercely opinionated about ramen. At first, customers came because they were curious, but word spread quickly about Ivan’s handmade noodles, clean and complex broth, and thoughtfully prepared toppings. Soon enough, Ivan became a celebrity—a fixture of Japanese TV programs and the face of his own best-selling brand of instant ramen. Ivan opened a second location in Tokyo, and has now returned to New York City to open his first shop and expand his ramen empire. Discover the origins of Ivan’s obsession and how this unlikely white guy became one of the leading experts in ramen.
Ivan describes his first ramen experience as “excruciating painful.” It took place in a down-and-dirty, classic, sticky, hole-in-the-wall, down a small alley somewhere in Tokyo. The miso broth is around 200 degrees and apparently, needs to eaten when it’s boiling and inhaled quickly. So Ivan did just that.
IVAN ORKIN’S MISO AND PORK RAMEN RECIPE
- 100 g red miso
- 100 g white miso
- 40 g sake
- 30 g oil
- 20 g honey
- 30 ml pork fat (or oil)
- 25 g chopped onions
- 10 g chopped garlic,
- 10 g chopped ginger
- 50 ml oil
- 200g ground pork
- 20 g miso mix
- 4 liters chicken stock (store bought low sodium OK)
- 1 lb pork neck bones
- 1 lb ground pork
For the miso base:
- Combine the miso, sake, oil, honey and cook together in a pan for 10 minutes in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Reserve. (This can be done up to 5 days ahead of time)
For the meat mix:
- Saute the ginger, garlic, and onion in the oil for 5 minutes until softened. Add the ground pork and cook over medium heat until fully cooked. (about 5 min more)
- Add 20 g of the prepared miso base, cook for 5 more minutes. Reserve. (This can be made up to 3 days in advance)
For the pork soup:
- Combine the pork bones, ground pork and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Skim off the scum that rises to the surface.
- Boil very hard until you have about 700 ml of soup left. If it is low, top off with more chicken both.
- Strain, reserve. (This can be done 3 days in advance)
Burnt garlic oil This is an incredible condiment and is great on anything!
- 1 C canola oil
- 1 C sesame oil
- 3 T Sambal chili paste
- 100 g whole peeled garlic cloves
- Combine garlic and canola oil and cook slowly over medium high heat until it starts to burn. This will take about 30 min, stir occasionally until the garlic is evenly black and when tapped with a spoon, sounds hard and hollow.
- Cool mixture, and blend very well in a blender.
- Add sesame oil and chili paste
- (This can be made a week in advance)
To assemble the dish:
- Add the remaining miso base to a pot and add the soup. Boil together very hard for 5 minutes. Keep HOT!
- In a separate pot, bring 4 liters of water to a boil for the ramen noodles. (You can use dry noodles from instant ramen, or better yet, find thick ramen noodles in an Asian market)
- Warm the meat mixture gently in a small pan.
- Have 2 warm bowls ready.
- Boil the noodles until just done. Shake off all excess water and drop noodles in the 2 bowls.
- Add 270 ml of piping hot soup to each bowl of noodles. Gently stir together with chopsticks.
- Divide the warm pork mixture on top of the two bowls of ramen.
- Top with a drizzle of the garlic oil, some chopped scallions.