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Ordering Ramen: Learn How Pros Pick the Best Ramen Dish

Have you ever been hesitant or afraid of making a mistake when ordering a ramen dish at a ramen restaurant?

If you have, you might probably think…

1) It is a type of foreign food so I don’t know the system.
2) The vocabulary used on the menu is not familiar to me.
3) I don’t know what the best choice is.

4) I don’t know how to customize my ramen noodles.

And you are confused and nervous.

But don’t worry because here I am...

Kota is my ramen best friend and we always go out to eat ramen together.

According to him, I always pick the better ramen dish and I pick the best dish out of the menu.

Because he always says this about me,

I am confident and proud of picking my ramen dishes!

Keep reading and you will find out my tricks...

1. The only way to pick the best ramen dish

You don’t want to feel regret or disappointment after you order your ramen at the restaurant.

In order you to avoid that,

You should know these secret tricks...

You will be delighted after seeing and tasting your ramen at the restaurant,

And your friends or family will envy you.

Why am I sharing them?

Because I am happy you’ve come to read my article.

So let’s get started...

i. Knowing the speciality of the ramen restaurant

Every ramen shop has its speciality.

If the ramen restaurant’s speciality is shoyu ramen, then you should pick shoyu ramen.

ii. Then how do you know the speciality? Look at the “top left” of the menu

Well, the trick of knowing the ramen restaurant’s speciality is…

Looking at the menu.

Usually, it is on the top left on the menu.

It is an unwritten rule of the ramen restaurant industry.

Ramen restaurant owners display a dish on the top left of the menu that they are most confident of taste.

It doesn’t matter if it is a paper menu, online menu, or vending machine.

Good News:

Ramen chefs will not push the most profitable dish onto you.

They want you to try the dish they are proud of.

And the chefs are hoping you could be a loyal and repeat customer of their restaurant.

iii. What about the preference of your ramen?

At some ramen restaurants, you can pick your preference of ramen dishes.

You can choose your ramen flavor strength and noodle texture when you place your order with the waiter.

Or if there is an order form, you circle your preferences on a sheet.

But wait – this is the area where most people screw up, and sadly, end up hating the ramen they’ve chosen.

Usually you can pick...

Flavor strength

This is basically the strength of the sauce. 

Ramen soup is made of soup stock and sauce.

If you pick a strong flavor, the amount of sauce will increase.

If you pick a weak flavor, the amount of sauce will be less.

You can pick flavor strength out of…

weak / medium / strong


At a ramen restaurant, richness means how much fat is there in the soup.

If you want to have greasy soup you pick “rich”.

But if you are thinking about calories, pick “none”. 

This will not change any taste or thickness of broth.

You can pick out of...

none / light / medium / rich / ultra rich

Noodle's texture

You can also pick the noodle’s texture.

Noodle texture depends on how much you boil the noodles.

You can pick out of...

extra firm / firm / medium / soft / extra soft

As you read, there are so many choices…

But what you should do is pick the middle choices because that is usually the standard of the restaurant.

At least for the first time, you should try the default setting of the ramen shop.

If you happen to be there for a second time, you adjust your preferences based on your thoughts on the first try.

After knowing the standard, you will have a better understanding on how to customize.

2. How to order ramen: Do that, avoid that

People say I don’t know how to order ramen.

Yes, I understand.

Because there are some different kinds of ordering systems.

You are worried about making a mistake when ordering ramen and getting embarrassed.

But don’t worry, here is how to order ramen at a restaurant...

i. Vending machine:

Have you ever seen ticket machines located in the front of ramen restaurants?

You use this machine to buy a ticket for ramen and toppings.

After you are seated, you hand the ticket to the chef and they will start preparing your order.

ii. At a cashier in Japan

After sitting down at the counter, talk to the chef directly to place your order.

In this case, you pay at the register after you eat.

If they slip you a receipt while you are eating, bring it to the register too.

iii. At a ramen restaurant in North America

It is pretty much the same as usual restaurants in North America.

After sitting down at the table or counter, you tell your waiter what you want to eat.

In the end you tell your waiter that you are finished, and  pay the bill at the table.

You don’t know how to eat ramen?

Then you should read the article below check this out…

How to Eat Ramen: Man, I’m Having the Most Amazing Experience

3. What if you want to get a glass of water?

Did you know?

In a lot of ramen restaurants in Japan, you have to get a glass of water by yourself.

There are glasses and a water dispenser at a counter or table.

And you go there to get your water.

Do you feel that this system is “incomplete”?

Well, the reason why no one serves water for you is…

There is no floor staff like a waiter or waitress at a regular ramen restaurant in Japan.

It is completely normal to run a ramen restaurant only by some chefs or even one chef.

Because ramen chefs try to serve good food for an inexpensive price and cutting the labor costs is a great way to do just that.

That is why you have to get your water by yourself.

4. The exact way to use condiments on the counter 

Have you ever seen the ramen toppings and condiments on your counter?

Like below…


They might make you skeptical if you can or should use them or not.

Or will they charge you or not.

Good News:

They are free.

But there is a way to use these condiments...

One day, I was eating ramen happily at a ramen shop.

Ramen was served to the customer next to me.

And he started using the condiments before tasting any of his ramen.

Well I sometimes see this.

But what shocked and provoked me was…

He used all the condiments and toppings and the amount was massive!

Because I liked the taste of ramen there,

I felt defensive and humiliated for the restaurant and chefs.

I think…

Ramen is a piece of art.

Making ramen soup takes a lot of time.

Picking the right types of noodles and toppings for the soup needs a lot of experience.

They serve your ramen dish because they think it is the best.

Well, he paid for it so he can do whatever he wants…

But do people paint over a painting they bought from an art gallery?

I don’t think so.

Why did he do that? I think there are 2 reasons.

Reason No. 1 it is free

Yeah, people get excited because it is free.

But, if you ruin the harmony by using too much of the condiments,

It doesn't make sense to me. 

Reason No. 2 when you season your food you will feel yummy no matter what you are eating

Yes, I’m sure you will find it very yummy because...

You used your creativity and it is extremely satisfying.

According to "Psychological Science" which is published in 2013 by Harvard University and Minnesota University,

If you make certain actions to your food before eating it, you will get more satisfaction from the meal.

My suggestion is…

Why don’t you try what the restaurant thinks the best.

Maybe they don’t want to put any condiments there, but it is a standard of the industry so they might not have a choice.

Then, if you didn’t like the taste or you got bored of it, you try to adjust the taste. 

If you want to know more about ramen toppings and condiments, click here...

How to Spruce up Ramen? 25 Ways to Upgrade Instant Ramen Hacks

5. Ramen restaurant's unknown facts

A ramen restaurant,

It is the place where you can face only the ramen bowl in front of you at the counter.

You will feel zen.

This is how a regular ramen restaurant looks like…

When I was an office worker in Japan,

The job was really stressful - excessive working hours, low wages, unpaid overtime work, and constantly being yelled at by my boss.

I was alone in a new city, no girlfriend, no friends, gloomy, and felt very lonely.

My only oasis was the ramen shop near the office. For me, the ramen chef there was literally an angel. I saw a halo on his head. (No joke)

This is a place you can forget about everything but the ramen in front of you and feel relieved. 

There are 5 kinds of places that you can have ramen...

i. Locally-owned ramen restaurant

These kinds of ramen restaurants are loved by local people.

It is run by an owner or a family that consists of a couple and their child.

They have a relaxed and at home atmosphere. 

If you can see a poster of a girl holding a beer mug on the wall, then it is 100% this type of ramen restaurant.

The flow at these ramen restaurants will be…

1 Order your ramen
2 Eat ramen
3 Pay at the casher

4 Leave (say “gochisousama deshita”)

ii. Ramen-specialty restaurants

This type of restaurant is usually more automated.

They usually have vending machines for ordering so it minimizes the risk of making the wrong dishes.

Customers tend to be younger people.

Chefs are cheerful.

So you will feel excited but If you are not used to it, you might feel nervous because it can be a little intimidating.

The flow at these ramen restaurants will be…

1. Order and pay using the vending machine
2. Hand the ticket to the chef
3. Eat ramen

4. Leave (say “gochisousama deshita”)

Examples of these kind or ramen restaurants are…

Menya Musashi-kei 


iii. Ramen Chain Restaurants

Their taste is very reliable.

Ramen from this kind of restaurant has a stable quality.

So it is good for a wide range of people.

They usually have a centralized kitchen system,

So their soup, noodles, and toppings are made from their factories.

And they are delivered to the restaurants.

The flow at these ramen restaurants will be…

1. Order and pay using the vending machine
2. Hand the ticket to the chef
3. Eat ramen

4. Leave (say “gochisousama deshita”)

Examples of these kinds or ramen restaurants are…

Kitakata Ramen Bannai


iii. Family restaurants

Usually, people don’t decide to go to a family restaurant when they are craving ramen.

Because there are so many specialized ramen restaurants in town.

However, there are some ramen dishes on the menu of a family restaurant.

They are cheaper than ramen restaurants.

You feel more relaxed and comfortable at a family restaurant because you can stay there for a long time.

Family restaurants that serve ramen are…


iv. Service area

Yes, you can eat ramen at a service area.

You might imagine a service area as… 

A place that makes you lonely or somber.

But Japanese service areas look like a shopping mall. 

They are organized and clean. 

All the service areas serve ramen at the food courts. 

And you can enjoy a variety of regional ramen dishes.

Because ramen is different in each region.

It must be so exciting if you can travel using highways and eat all the regional ramen at service areas in Japan!

vi. Food Stall (Yatai)

Food stalls are becoming less and less common in Japan.

My dad used to take me to a ramen food stall when I was a kid.

Especially in the winter, ramen at the food stall tasted so good. It warmed up my body.

If you are there for the first time, you might feel puzzled, shy, or unsure about the food stall.

Here are some tips for eating at a ramen food stall…

1. When you want to sit at the counter, ask the chef “is it open?”

Even though there are empty seats, it doesn’t mean you can sit there because it might not open yet.

2. Your space is really small, so do not order too much.

3. You should figure out the right time to order.

Usually, there is only one chef there, so be considerate.

4. Do not sit there too long.

When you finish eating, leave quickly.

6. Extreme and Strange Rules in Some Japanese Ramen Restaurants 

Many ramen restaurants have their own rules and eating etiquette. 

While a good 99% make a lot of sense, I've stumbled upon some EXTREME and strange rules. 

If I happened to be at these restaurants, I would be feeling irritated and tormented…

Difficult to take seriously, here are 8 strange examples that I have documented through my years of eating in ramen restaurants in Japan: 

i. You cannot touch your phone

Well, yes, touching a phone while you are eating is not good manners, but what if it was an emergency call?

ii. You cannot talk to anyone other than the chef

So if I go there with my friends should we pretend that we are strangers?

iii. You must drink the broth first. If you eat the noodles first, you will be asked to leave the restaurant

Can they decide what I eat first? The chef must be the god there.

iv. You should not muddle the soup when you are drinking it

I don’t know what that means.

v. No children allowed

It must be so sad if a kid has to wait outside the ramen shop while his parents are eating. 

Maybe the owner had a bad experience with children?

vi. You cannot talk about ramen in the shop

If you are a food critic, you have no freedom of speech inside of the restaurant. You will be yelled at by them. 

vii. You are not to look around the restaurant

Probably they want you to focus on your ramen only?

viii. You cannot ask about the menu

You will know how it is like when you eat.

The intention behind these rules (I'm guessing) is that these chefs want you to eat their ramen in the perfect environment and condition. 

Chefs from regular ramen shops are nice (and normal), so don't worry!

However, do be careful when you happen to enter one of these extreme shops and remember to follow their rules, as strange and unreasonable as they may seem. 

If ramen or any other types of Japanese style noodles and soup is comfort food for you, you might be thinking that you need ramen bowls.

Ramen bowls are perfect for a large bowl of ramen.

They are big enough to pile on the fixings, they are durable, and best of all, they look beautiful.

Share a bowl of warm, hearty home cooked ramen with your family, friends and loved ones for your ramen night.

Or when you order take out, transfer the noodles from those awful looking containers.

You and your family will be so excited and can’t wait until your next ramen night to use these bowls!

About the Author

Kei is a self-proclaimed ramen lover, blog writer and founder of "Apex S.K. Japanese tableware".

"I am from Ibaraki, Japan.

Ramen is great! It can bring you a sense of happiness and satisfaction that no other food can. I have been eating ramen for 30 years.

If there is no ramen, my life would be miserable.

Ten years ago, I worked as an office worker. The job was really stressful - excessive working hours, low wages, unpaid overtime work, and constantly being yelled at by my boss.

I was new and alone, no girlfriend, no friends, and felt very lonely.

My only oasis was the ramen shop near the office. For me, the ramen chef there was literally an angel. I saw a halo on his head. (No joke)

Tonkotsu shoyu ramen was my all-time favorite. He made ramen with broth chock-full of umami flavor, nice chewy handmade noodles, and tender chashu.

My greatest dream is connect people with ramen through my blog. I want to share a lot of interesting and funny stories and ramen trivia with you.

Knowing more about ramen can help you appreciate your ramen and make it taste extra delicious."

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