Replicating Momofuku and Ivan Ramen

August 5th, 2018in food
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Ivan Ramen corn

I recently had the good fortune of visiting Ivan Ramen in New York City.
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Ivan Ramen exterior
Since corn was in season, they featured an amazing corn dish with miso-roasted corn, shio-koji butter, togarashi, bonito.
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Ivan Ramen grilled miso corn
As soon as I got home, it was time to riff and improvise with my NYC-garnered inspiration. I rubbed the corn with some miso, grilled and buttered it, then placed it on (and further drenched it with) some thrown-together special sauce-ish mayo with mayo, shio koji, and sriracha, then topped it with bonito flakes, togarashi, and chives. (I’m very fortunate to live with someone who stocks shio koji, bonito, and togarashi.)
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DIY corn situation
While my grilling skills need some further work, overall it was a pretty close replica and I really enjoyed it. Shio koji is just a magically umami ingredient that pairs beautifully with the fattiness of mayo.
And speaking of shio koji…

Ivan Ramen watermelon “nigiri”

This dish (watermelon nigiri, koji tofu, shio kombu, shiso, togarashi oil) sounded too crazy not to get, so there we were.
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Watermelon nigiri
It’s tofu marinated in shio koji (magical ingredient from above) layered on top of accurately cut watermelon, topped with spicy oil and shiso leaves.
Back at home, I rebuilt it to the same specs and arrived at a pretty similar-looking and near-identical-tasting replica.
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DIY watermelon nigiri situation
I marinated the tofu in shio koji overnight and that was a bit much of a good thing - for a second round I just left it in shio koji for an hour or two. I wasn’t able to source baby shiso leaves so I just went with a shiso chiffonade on top of some assorted chili oil and fried shallot crumbles.
(We make fried shallots roughly once a quarter and just keep them in the fridge labelled shallot crack. They keep exceedingly well, stay surprisingly crispy, and add a magical dimension to just about anything.)

Ivan Ramen watermelon ice cube drink

And what does one do with the left-over watermelon from the nigiri? One makes drinks, of course.
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Oishii melon with Mio sparkling sake
This was also easy to replicate. For one, Uwajimaya carries the Mio sparkling sake (however much it seems like a bit of a novelty product). And second, of course I did have loads of seedless watermelon cutoffs.
A trip through the Vitamix and conical strainer later, I had my fancy 2” cocktail ice cube molds filled with watermelon goop, so a day later we got this:
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Watermelon ice cube and sake
Unfortunately this was before I got to run out and get the Mio sparkling sake so some leftover cloudy sake had to do, but I tried it again a few days later with the right sake and it was identical to the Ivan Ramen experience.
I had a lot of watermelon cutoffs so after blending and straining them I just put them back into the big Vitamix container and kept it in the fridge while I went to re-blend and pour some off each day into the ice cube molds after popping out the previous day’s ice cube harvest. I kept the accumulated watermelon ice cubes in a ziploc bag in the freezer and they managed to behave and not glom together into a giant mass.

Momofuku Ssäm corn

On the same trip I also pilgrimage’d to the Momofuku empire.
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Momofuku Ssäm exterior
One particularly striking dish I had was the fried curly corn on the cob with charred eggplant aioli and ricotta.
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Fried curly corn
I created a decent replica of this as well but was too carried away to actually take pictures. However, we learned the following:
  • Cutting raw corn on the cob into quarters requires a sharp knife but it works eventually.
    • Cut the cob down length-wise to make it a bit easier.
  • Quartering the corn allows it to turn curly when fried - just tossing it in our deep fryer did the trick.
  • The contrast between a roast eggplant aioli and ricotta is a beautiful thing, especially against the spicy corn.
  • Ricotta is easy to make ahead of time.
  • In fact most of this dish is made ahead of time, make it an easy dish to execute for summer parties.

Further lessons learned

  • The same evening I went to Momofuku Ssäm I also went to Momofuku proper and ordered the extremely spicy noodle. Don’t do it.
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