How to Shop at a Japanese Supermarket, with Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen

The chef breaks down his favorite Japanese pantry staples—and how to use them at home—on a tour of the massive Mitsuwa Marketplace in New Jersey.


All photos by Liz Barclay

All photos by Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay)

Even if you're a seasoned eater of sushi and ramen, walking into a Japanese grocery store can be intimidating. Beyond the staples that find their way into regular supermarkets—soy sauce, miso soup—you're likely to encounter aisle upon aisle of unfamiliar foods with unreadable packaging. You know these things probably taste awesome—the only problem is, you have no idea how to use them.

To brush up on our knowledge of Japanese ingredients, we enlisted chef Ivan Orkin of the newly opened Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in Gotham Market West. For 10 years, Orkin and his wife, Mari, lived in Tokyo, where he opened two restaurants that made him an unlikely ramen celebrity (his new book details how a Jewish kid from Long Island rose to noodle supremacy).

Orkin and his wife (a Japanese food expert herself) recently led us on a guided tour of Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater, NJ—the largest Japanese supermarket in the U.S.—and gave us the rundown on their pantry essentials. In the guide that follows, Ivan and Mari decode everything from katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) to Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise, and offer up easy-to-execute ideas on how to use each ingredient. Think of this as your gateway to making simple but delicious homestyle Japanese food in your own kitchen.

shopping Test Post

Orkin's shopping companions for the day—wife Mari and business partner David Poran

Click through the gallery for a guide to Japanese pantry essentials, courtesy of chef Ivan Orkin.

And don't miss this video below, in which Orkin demonstrates the proper way to slurp noodles when eating a bowl of ramen. If you're like us, it's likely that you've been doing it wrong this whole time.


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  • Elise Laurel

    Yess… BullDog Tonkatsu Sauce! It’s good on just about everything!

  • Elise Laurel

    Yess… BullDog Tonkatsu Sauce! It’s good on just about everything!

  • mm

    u aint fooling anyone with that wig ivan…thanks for this tips tho!

  • Alex

    Sprinkle furikake on your popcorn as well.

  • Nicholas Doyle

    Thank you for this article! It inspired me to pick up the right ingredients to make the best miso soup I’ve ever made! I linked to this article on this post of my blog so others could benefit!

  • brainqueef

    yo, you know he wanted to get santouka but didn’t mention it bc of the conflict of interest. santouka is just so fucking bomb, i really can’t fuck with anything else. salt ramen, natto combo boner

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