By Anne Kingston - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 0 Comments
The Japanese dish’s alchemy of humble ingredients is only beginning its culinary ascent
In December, the first issue of Lucky Peach, a quarterly food journal produced by Momofuku mogul and chef-of-the-moment David Chang, sold on eBay for $162.50 to $152.50 more than its newsstand price in June 2011. Crazy? Not to anyone up on food trends: the issue is devoted to ramen, the Japanese broth-noodle combo once best known as a mainstay for starving students. But that was before forces—cultural, economic, primal—transformed it into the new cosmic chicken soup for the soul, metaphorically and culinarily speaking.
We’re currently in the grip of ramen mania, as illustrated by thousands of Instagrams of wheat noodles in glistening hot broth topped with sliced pork, mushrooms, egg, corn, seaweed, green onion, pickled bamboo shoots—you name it. The dish’s Vancouver toehold has increased and migrated east, with shops opening up in Toronto and beyond, seemingly with the frequency of Starbucks. Chatter on Chowhound message boards has turned to critiques of tare, the seasoned sauce that defines ramen type: miso, fermented bean paste; shoyu, soy-sauce based; shio, salty seafood and seaweed essence; and tonkotsu, creamy pork-bone broth. Studying ramen-making in Japan has become a chef’s bragging right, the way training at former molecular cuisine mecca El Bulli used to be.
Ivan Orkin, a New York chef turned ramen celebrity in Japan, sees the trend only beginning in North America. The self-described “Japanophile” moved to Tokyo in 2003 amid a ramen renaissance. His two Ivan Ramen shops, which offer a “Mexican” and a “BLT” ramen, were big hits; he also gained fame selling high-end instant ramen. Orkin is about to open his first U.S. outpost in Manhattan’s Lower East Side this spring. He’s publishing a book in the fall.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 8:40 AM - 3 Comments
A Japanese food writer offers up recipes for aesthetically arranged meals-in-a-box
“People always ask me why Japanese people are so skinny,” says Tokyo-born food writer Makiko Itoh, over the phone from France. Part of the answer, she discovered, may lie in bento, the Japanese word for those aesthetically arranged meals-in-a-box, which are often eaten at lunch in Japan—and have become increasingly popular in the West.
After a globe-trotting early life (her businessman father moved the family back and forth between Japan, the U.S., and England), the former Web designer and developer settled in Zurich with her husband. While there, she needed to lose 30 lb. and decided to return to the lunch box of her girlhood: “I had to relearn portion control and bento was one way to make sure I was eating healthy lunches and not just picking up another hamburger and fries.”
In 2007, she began to document her bento adventures on a blog called Just Bento, which now has over 375,000 subscribers. Since then, writing about food has become a full-time job, most recently with the newly released The Just Bento Cookbook, in which she outlines her bento philosophy, along with 150 recipes for meals in boxes.