Ivan Orkin Gets Ramen Right

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


What I know about the culture of ramen noodles would not fill a sake cup, but because of Ivan Orkin I’m about to jump on the bandwagon. (Yeah, I know I’m late.)

I ran across a terrific video that told how Mr. Orkin came to be owner and pivotal cheerleader for Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in New York.

I am now officially hooked.

The text accompanying his video explains about Mr. Ramen, er, Orkin:

Ivan Orkin is the noodle-obsessed restaurateur from Long Island who, remarkably for a ‘gaijin’ foreigner, became a culinary marvel after opening two ramen joints in Tokyo, the first in 2007.

“As a white guy from New York opening a shop in the heart of ramen land, I dealt with some pretty hard customers,” he muses. “But New York’s the same—there I’m still a white guy making ramen trying to convince people that I can cook noodles.”

What is ramen?

The origin of ramen is unclear. Some say it is of Chinese heritage. Wikipedia.org says this:

Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup dish. It consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat- or (occasionally) fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork, dried seaweedkamaboko, and green onions. Nearly every region in Japan has its own variation of ramen, from the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Kyushu to the miso ramen of Hokkaido.

Ramen is simply a bowl of noodles in broth with some tasty toppings, you say? Why do I think it’s not that easy?

I’m still a white guy making ramen trying to convince people that I can cook noodles.

Although certainly not an exact parallel, this category of deliciousness makes me think of barbecue and its region variations in America–sweet sauce over here, beef only in this region, vinegar-y sauce preferred in these parts, we like yellow sauce on our ribs–you get the idea.

But back to Ivan Orkin’s Ivan Ramen.

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, writing on SeriousEats.com said:

If we’ve already dipped our feet into the craziness of modern ramen, Slurp Shop marks New York’s first headlong dive, and it’s fitting that a Jewish guy from Long Island is bringing it to us, leaving authenticity far behind in the dust.

So far I have only scratched the surface of ramen-ness, but I cannot wait to learn more about this fascinating way to eat.

Thank you, Ivan Orkin for your influence. I look forward to bellying up to a bowl of Ivan Ramen.

Photo credit: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt via Serious Eats