Courtesy of Andrea Alonso/Ramen Hood.
When it’s 90-plus degrees, eating becomes a challenge. You can order only so many grilled burgers and kale salads, soup that isn’t gazpacho is out of the question, and is fro-yo really considered food? Fortunately, diners have another option this summer: ramen. But not prepared the way you think. Chefs are now going against the grain, as it were, and choosing to serve their broth and noodles chilled.
According to chef Ivan Orkin, whose Ivan Ramen became one of the most celebrated ramen shops in Tokyo, chilled noodles in broth is still a bit of an anomaly in Japan. But the Long Island, N.Y., native, who’s since taken his operation stateside, considers it the ultimate warm-weather treat. “There’s nothing like having a bracingly cold bowl of noodles when it’s hot out,” says Orkin, who owns the New York–based noodle hubs Ivan Slurp Shop and Ivan Ramen (IvanRamen.com), both of which offer innovative takes on ramen for the tank-top set. When things heat up, his patrons reach for dishes like spicy cold mazemen: crispy pork, greens, Koji tofu, and a pickled garlic vinaigrette, which together elevate the umami factor without raising internal thermostats. Another of Orkin’s beloved creations, cold lemon shio, combines rye noodles, poached shrimp, Japanese sea salt, and shiso leaves into a tart, citrusy broth.
Meanwhile, beachgoers in Miami and East Hampton, N.Y., can dig into Momi Ramen’s (MomiHamptons.com) chilled yasai ramen, which mixes its cold noodles in a yuzu soy dressing with eggplant caviar and grilled summer veggies like zucchini and squash. In Los Angeles, folks are lining up at the Grand Central Market takeout counter Ramen Hood (GrandCentralMarket.com) for an all-vegan ramen that swims in a broth made of sunflower seeds. And at Boke Bowl (BokeBowl.com) in Portland, Ore., gluten-free diners can sub yam noodles into any mix, while vegans can savor a caramelized fennel dashi broth at either of the restaurant’s two locations.
Which is all to say that ramen — formerly known as a cheap microwavable snack as ubiquitous in college dorm rooms as a Bob Marley poster — has broken out of its sad orange-and-yellow packet to become a foodie hero of sorts. It’s still fun, just tastier and funkier. “In traditional Japanese cuisine, there are rigid traditions and rules,” says Orkin, “but ramen is more of a maverick cuisine.” So for a cool-down this summer, skip the mint chocolate chip and grab the chopsticks.
Know Your Noodles
While cold ramen is becoming more popular in the States, other chilled noodles are considered staples of Asian cuisine. Here, three to try.
This Sichuan dish cools you down in two ways: first, with its ice-cold, sesame-flavored noodles; second, by activating sweat glands with its super-spicy chili sauce.
The Korean cold noodle soup is usually made with buckwheat noodles and spiked with ingredients like shiitake, radishes, and egg.
The best of both worlds, this Japanese dish comes with two bowls: one with cold noodles, the other with a hot soupy broth for dipping.
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