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Jewish News One: Jewish chef dubbed ‘Ramen King

The newly-opened Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop offers up Japanese noodles in a unique New York style. The restaurant is named after its owner - Ivan Orkin, a Jewish man who grew up in New York but has spent the past six years in Japan perfecting his ramen.

When he was 15, Orkin got a job as a dishwasher at a Japanese restaurant back when sushi bars were not so common in the city.

Ivan Orkin, owner Slurp Shop:

“I just fell in love with the cuisine and even more importantly I fell in love with the cooks and the culture and the language. I was very fascinated by it.”

In college, he majored in Japanese and spent some time in Japan. After more than a decade of cooking American food in the US, he returned to Asia. His wife encouraged him to set up a ramen shop.

Ivan Orkin, owner Slurp Shop:

 “And I said ‘well, that’s nuts. Why would I do a ramen shop? I don’t know anything about ramen. I’m this white guy from New York. Who would want to eat my ramen?“

But he tried it and has been running two ramen shops in Tokyo for the past seven years. He marries his love of Japan with his love of food – in the form of ramen noodles. And he’s got his own unique recipe.

Ivan Orkin, owner Slurp Shop:

 “I knew the flavors I liked and so I sort of ran with that. I decided I didn’t love all the noodles I was trying so I decided to make my own.”

Orkin uses rye flour in some of his noodles. He grew up eating rye bread every Sabbath and he makes a white fish salad at the Slurp Shop, too.

Ivan Orkin, owner Slurp Shop:

 “I definitely grew up in a very Jewish household. And so a lot of times my food very accidentally sort of marries these things. Because I’m really comfortable using white fish. I’m really comfortable using rye flour. I’m really comfortable using these things because it’s just who I am and what I do. And so we’ve ended up with some stuff that you’re kind of like, hey, wait a second, isn’t that weird, that totally worked out. It’s very serendipitous. So it’s been really fun and people get it and they like it.”

Christina Zheng, customer Slurp Shop:

 “I liked it a lot. I was a huge fan of the soup and, I mean, I’m also a huge fan of ramen in general so I like to eat at different ramen shops in New York City and I think this is a really really good decision to make too. The pork is really really soft and very savory. I like that a lot.”

Thomas Schuldt, customer Slurp Shop:

 “I really like the ramen too. I had classic shoyu, and especially I liked the soy sauce, the strong flavor of the soy sauce because I like very strong flavored food. And I liked the freshness of the ingredients too.” 

These Slurp Shop patrons both found it interesting that the ramen recipe was made by a Jewish New Yorker.

Thomas Schuldt, customer Slurp Shop:

 “I think it’s maybe especially difficult to, if you’re from another culture, to make ramen but then it’s very nice for the customers and very surprising of how nice flavors come out of the pot.”

Christina Zheng, customer Slurp Shop:

 “it makes it like I guess a little bit more exotic because you’re not just getting super Japanese ramen, you’re getting what somebody else put into it too and I think that’s something that people should try.”

Ivan Orkin, owner Slurp Shop:

 “I’m very proud of the food we make. I think it’s quite good. I eat it all the time. I’ve been doing this for almost 8 years so I feel really good about it.”

Okrin has returned home to the United States to try to define ramen in New York City. He plans to open up a second Slurp Shop in the city's Lower East Side very soon.

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