The Eight Chapters of Ramen

Achieve the Perfect Slurp with the American Chef Who Took a Chance in Japan

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.” In today’s film that is inspired by the seminal Japanese ‘noodle Western’ Tampopo, director Jake Sumner captures Orkin’s stateside debut, the Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop at Gotham West Market in Hell’s Kitchen; coincidentally, during his early days in Japan, Orkin taught English to Tampopo’s female star, Nobuko Miyamoto. Back in Japan, the chef’s bespectacled profile is emblazoned on his own best-selling range of Sapporo Ichiban instant ramen, seducing the public from local supermarket aisles with his rye-flecked, Jewish deli-influenced noodles. Momofuku’s Lucky Peach magazine first introduced Orkin’s Eastern adventures to the West, which led the restaurant empire’s founder David Chang to pen the foreword to Orkin’s memoirs and cookbook, Ivan Ramen. “I had terrible culture shock when I came back to New York two years ago,” adds the chef of his re-assimilation. “During my 30-year relationship with Japan, I had spent a long time learning how to do things a certain way.”

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  • ON REPLAY
    ON REPLAY

    Tao Lin: The Vegan Muffin

    The Internet Age Novelist’s Story Inspires Filmmaker Edward Housden’s Surreal Short

    “I started just knowing that the main character was going to work at NASA, where I imagined her on Gchat at her work computer,” says author, artist and poet Tao Lin of the cake-headed protagonist in today’s deadpan short story The Vegan Muffin, adapted into a darkly comical vignette by Australian director Edward Housden. “For a while I was writing a lot of little stories with animals as the main character—there was a manatee, an ant, a shark—and it seemed a lot more fun. This is the only food-based one. And the only story set at NASA.” Recognized for his unconventional prose style that reflects the immediacy of the internet generation with refreshing transparency, Lin’s semi-autobiographical third novel Taipei was published by Random House last year, and his Muumuu House press has put out work by vanguard American writers Sheila Heti, Ben Lerner and Megan Boyle. In Housden’s film, Lin’s surreal day-in-the-life is transposed to London, complete with a Gary Card-designed muffin head and narration by vegan model and actress, Tallulah Harlech. “The original story was published in 2009, and I haven’t written any like this in years,” says Lin. “I have about 10 on a Google Doc that I work on from time to time. I find them very satisfying.”

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  • MOST SHARED IN GASTRONOMY
    MOST SHARED IN GASTRONOMY

    Salmon Smoker

    Inside the Secluded World of London's Renowned Artisanal Fishmonger Hansen & Lydersen

    Director Nikolaj Belzer hones in on the idiosyncratic owner of famed artisanal salmon smokery Hansen & Lydersen, Ole-Martin Hansen, in his latest short, produced by Everything is Okay and Freunde von Freunden. Using a recipe dating back to 1923 and handed down through generations of Norwegian fishmongers, Hansen provides his tender salmon to leading London restaurants such as Yotam Ottolenghi’s Nopi, Hakkasan’s Sake No Hana and Terence Conran's boutique hotel-restaurant the Boundary. Living in a secluded, self-built urban cabin above his warehouse smokery in the center of Stoke Newington, Hansen works singlehandedly with each piece of sustainably farmed salmon from the British Faroe Islands. “I like to have as little as possible in here,” explains Hansen of his premises, “so it is a space for thinking, for ideas to develop.” Skinning, deboning, salting and finally smoking each fish with his traditional blend of juniper-infused hay, the former Sound Arts and Design student even plays improvised classical scores on the piano while the salmon smokes. "When I first met Ole he immediately struck me as a fascinating character,” says Belzer. “His approach is much more than just a working method, it is an attitude, a way of life."

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