best ramen cookbooks for a taste of Japan
Ramen reminds me of my college days, before I knew cooking noodles was an art unto itself. My then-boyfriend (now husband) was obsessed with making ramen. And when I say obsessed, I mean obsessed.
Ramen has a bit of a fan-following around the world. It’s a Japanese dish (that translates to pulled noodles). And it varies region-to-region. Good ramen is easy to make. Great ramen is tough.
And these ramen cookbooks are all about making the kind of ramen that leaves you hungry for more (even when you feel full up till your belly).
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Anthony Bourdain put it best – “what Ivan Orkin does not know about noodles is not worth knowing.”
Orkin is a New Yorker turned ramen joint owner. His restaurants are well-loved in Tokyo and for good reason. Orkin’s a ramen maestro whose passion for noodle soup slides across every page in Ivan Ramen, a melodic memoir interspersed with a staccato of recipes.
As a home chef, I’ll be honest, this is one of the most complicated ramen cookbooks to follow (definitely not for beginners). But the result (if you have the right tools and ingredients) is ramen worth talking about.
And the book itself is a great standalone read (so even if you’re not planning on cooking any of the recipes, I still highly recommend it).
Touted as the ultimate Bible for mastering Japanese ramen, Ramen Obsession is easily one of the most comprehensive ramen cookbooks. A tad over 200 pages, Ramen Obsession is packed with tools and techniques and history. The main ramen-making method is listed out in easy-to-follow steps (there are only six basic components). And from there, Ramen Obsession offers over 100 variations.
P.S. This cookbook contains notes (in red font, right under the recipe title) regarding which dishes are gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, and dairy-free.
Ramen For Beginners takes traditional recipes and breaks them down in a way that’s accessible. The cookbook contains 75 easy ramen recipes that can be made with a mix of homemade and storebought ingredients. If you’re looking to dip your feet into the world of homemade ramen without sacrificing time or quality (AKA how to make good, authentic ramen fast 101), this is one of the best ramen cookbooks to try.
Ramen For Beginners also has a whole section dedicated to vegan and vegetarian ramen. I love the miso tare (a 5-ingredient, can-be-meal-prepped spicy paste used to dial-up flavor) recipe in particular (so useful)!
A comic with several interwoven recipes, Let’s Make Ramen is worth a read for the illustrations alone, which are stunning.
It’s not a serious ramen cookbook and that’s the point. Broths like Shio, Shoyu, Miso, and Tonkotsu are covered in a fun and light-hearted way. You won’t learn as much about ramen making as with a typical ramen cookbook, but you’ll learn all the basics (and be very entertained throughout). And the recipes inside are good – really good.
101 Things To Do With Ramen Noodles needs to be on every college student’s bookshelf. Whilst some of the recipes in this book are a bit too adventurous for my palette, Toni Patrick is incredibly creative and invents a multitude of ways to enjoy instant ramen. Think beer noodles and chicken Alfredo and tuna noodle casserole.
Most of the ramen cookbooks on this list cover traditional ramen, but 101 Things To Do With Ramen is all about cheap, Americanized-upgrades to instant noodles (and as a former student, I’m not complaining – we need more books like this).
One of the best ramen cookbooks for those looking to quickly satisfy any let’s-order-ramen-now cravings (which I have all the time), Ramen At Home is all about bringing restaurant ramen into the walls of a home kitchen. The ramen that you’ll make in this book is bitingly salty (I saw a recommendation mention low-sodium soy sauce as a substitute so I’ll try that in the future). But it’s still good ramen.
Throughout the cookbook, you’ll also find little beige blurbs that detail everything from techniques to history (I loved these asides the most).
Written by a ramen lover, Ramen Otaku is for home chefs looking to build up their ramen repertoire. There are only 40 recipes in the book but what’s listed is worth trying.
Sarah Gavigan’s autobiography is deeply personal and that’s partly what makes this one of the best ramen cookbooks of all-time (the other part? detailed recipes, perfect for beginners). Otaku Ramen (her restaurant) has a cult following in Nashville. And after poking through Ramen Otaku, it’s easy to see why.
Japanese Soul Cooking doesn’t focus exclusively on ramen but I’m so in love with the concept of this book that I needed to include it. The recipes, which range from gyoza to tonkatsu, drill into real, authentic, homey Japanese cooking.
The cookbook itself is written by a Japanese chef in-the-know. So rest assured, every dish feels Japanese through-and-through. It’s also laid out in a way that makes it easy for non-Japanese cooks (like myself) to understand!
The name of this cookbook says it all. Ramen (officially, Ramen: Japanese Noodles And Small Dishes) provides a brief overview of ramen – what it is, flavor notes, a bit beyond. It’s a short, easily digestible book that covers the bare basics (I’m talking how to make noodles from scratch). And if you’re looking for a foundation to build upon, Ramen provides just that.
Eat A Peach has been a memoir that’s been on my to-read list for a while now. David Chang is a legend. I’m in awe of how he’s created a brand as deeply loved and well-known as Momofuku. The cookbook, which bears the same name, is not for beginners. It’s complicated and involved. Whilst the results are amazing, you need patience (which I don’t have a lot of). Or you need to be a fan of Chang (I happen to fall into this latter category).
Ramen Pantry Essentials
Most of the ingredients needed for the recipes in these ramen cookbooks can be found at your local Asian grocery store (if you live in Texas, I highly recommend 99 Ranch Market).
Here’s what you’ll need in your pantry:
- Wheat Flour (if you’re making your own noodles)
- Dried shiitake mushrooms
- Yellow onions or shallots
- Sesame Oil
Did you find this post on the best ramen cookbooks helpful? What are your favorite ramen cookbooks? Let me know in the comments below!