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Ivan Orkin is a self-described gaijin (guy-jin), a Japanese term that means “outsider.” He has been hopelessly in love with the food of Japan since he was a teenager on Long Island. Even after living in Tokyo for decades and running two ramen shops that earned him international renown, he remained a gaijin.
Fortunately, being a lifelong outsider has made Orkin a more curious, open, and studious chef. In The Gaijin Cookbook, he condenses his experiences into approachable recipes for every occasion, including weeknights with picky kids, boozy weekends, and celebrations. Everyday dishes like Pork and Miso-Ginger Stew, Stir-Fried Udon, and Japanese Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce are what keep the Orkin family connected to Japan. For more festive dinners, he suggests a Temaki Party, where guests assemble their own sushi from cooked and fresh fillings. And recipes for Bagels with Shiso Gravlax and Tofu Coney Island (fried tofu with mushroom chili) reveal the eclectic spirit of Ivan’s cooking.
In this thoroughly enjoyable follow-up to Ivan Ramen, Orkin and Ying take readers into Orkin's home kitchen. A New York Jew, Orkin rose to fame serving up schmaltz-seasoned, rye-flour ramen in his Tokyo restaurant. Now, he meditates on a life spent as a gaijin (outsider) immersed in Japanese culture. Shot through with reflections on identity, family, and tradition, the book is arranged into sections including "Eat More Japanese" (which contains foundational recipes), "Open to Anything" (recipes of Western influence, such as curry and fried pork cutlets), and "Otaku (Geeking Out)" (recipes that call for advanced techniques, such as hand-folding gyoza). In the "Empathy/Comfort" section, there's Tonjiru, a bone-warming pork, miso, and ginger stew that happens to be "a brilliant way to get pickier kids to eat more carrots." Orkin can be fanatical about Japanese food his teriyaki recipe is on version 12 and is made with just five ingredients (sake, mirin, sugar, and soy and oyster sauces). Orkin concludes with a Japanese New Year's meal that includes duck soba, chicken stuffed with burdock root and carrots, mashed sweet potatoes with candied chestnuts, and candied sardines. This passionate, welcoming volume serves as an excellent guide to Japanese home cooking.