U.S. chef serves oodles of noodles to hungry Tokyo

Tue Dec 2, 2008 5:50am EST
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By Chika Osaka

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Tokyo is full of hungry Japanese queuing outside noodle shops, but the line is usually longer at Ivan Ramen, where diners are greeted by the rare sight of a U.S. chef doling out bowls of a Japanese national obsession.

Ramen, originally a Chinese recipe of broth, noodles and various toppings, is a culinary delight closer to the hearts of most Japanese than sushi or tempura.

At Ivan Ramen, which has only 10 seats and a tiny kitchen, New Yorker Ivan Orkin fills up bowls with a measured amount of oil, fat and flavoring, pours soup over the mix and finishes it off by adding perfectly boiled noodles.

His recipe is a hit with the locals, and since opening in June 2007, the number of customers has increased dramatically, with Orkin and his team now making some 200 bowls a day.

"I've heard so much about Ivan Ramen so I used my holiday to come here," said diner Norikazu Fukai, who drove more than two hours to taste the ramen.

Orkin, a self-confessed ramen addict, said he got hooked on the noodles as a teenager working at a Japanese restaurant in New York. He went on to work as a chef in French restaurants, but then quit to study Japanese in college.

He went on to teach English in Japan and finally settled in this ramen-loving country in 2003 to master the dish.

SOUL FOOD   Continued...