Instant ramen doesn't get the respect it deserves, says Roy Choi.
"Making instant ramen is spiritual, important and methodical for Korean-American kids," says the chef-owner of L.A.'s beloved Kogi taco truck, as well as Chego, A-Frame, Alibi Room and Sunny Spot restaurants. "It's our peanut butter and jelly sandwich."
He included a recipe for instant ramen mash-up (see the recipe) in L.A. Son ($30), his new unflinchingly personal book, more memoir than cookbook. Choi stopped by our Test Kitchen to talk about the book and show us how to make his take on ramen, which includes a poached egg, chopped scallions, sesame seeds and that ubiquitous staple of everyone's youth, American cheese (watch the video).
"The book was a little bit of therapy for me," Choi says. "I'm a pretty free, rebellious dude, but I hold a lot of stuff in. The book was a chance for me to confront all of those things and be okay with them."
Take the ramen recipe: It follows a chapter about a week the future Kogi star spent smoking crack in NYC as a misguided, heartbroken college student.
"In the crack chapter, after you've gone through Times Square and all the seediness and have pulled yourself out, you go right into reading about instant ramen," Choi says. "I wanted to share the recipe not only because it's fun and delicious and easy, but it's also a little bit of a cultural awakening."
Check out Roy Choi's L.A. bars, restaurants and food trucks: