People frequently say to me, "I don't know how to eat ramen”.
This is a good and difficult question!
I’ve never really given it much thought before being asked.
Today, I will be covering the topics on which utensils you should eat ramen with and how to do so with them, along with what you should eat out of your ramen bowl first and why. Today's topic is packed with content, so let's get started!
I have lived in Ibaraki (countryside of Japan) and Tokyo until I was 28 years old and I've never thought seriously about the way I eat ramen. However, when I moved to the United States, I became conscious about how I ate ramen because I knew that in North America it is considered bad manners to make noises while eating.
I want to introduce a "noiseless" and "slurp-less" way to enjoy ramen without breaking North American table manner rules.
(You guys can't slurp like we do in Japan, right?)
1. Grab the spoon with your non-dominant hand
2. Using your other hand, pick up a few strands of noodles with your chopsticks.
3. Put the noodles onto the spoon.
4. Scoop some soup and make a “bowl of small ramen" inside your spoon.
There are some advantages of eating this way...
1. It is easy to eat because you don't need to slurp to enjoy your noodles with broth
2. Soup doesn't splash from the ends of your noodles, so you can avoid soup stains on your clothes.
3. You can enjoy noodles, soup and toppings together.
4. You can cool down hot noodles using your spoon.
5. You don’t make a mess.
To be honest with you, I don't feel eating ramen this way is as tasty as slurping it, so I will now share the most "かっこいい" or cool way to eat ramen in Japan (in my opinion).
When I was young, my mom said to me, "You can make noise when you eat ramen, udon, and soba, but not for spaghetti." She taught me how to twirl spaghetti on a spoon to eat it.
After that, I knew I must treat non-Japanese noodles differently, but for ramen and other soupy noodles, I developed my own slurping way naturally when observing adults.
Slurping is a lot harder than it seems! You think you can't do it?
Don't worry. I've prepared some exercises.
Level 1: Slurping Air
Making your mouth as small as possible, inhale air using your mouth and exhale using your nose. Your mouth should be shaped like you are pronouncing the “O” sound. After making this shape with your mouth, make a noise like "Suuuuu" when you inhale.
Level 2: Slurping Water
Keep your mouth in an “O”-shape and slurp the surface of a cup of water. Keep the water inside your mouth and exhale from your nose. The point of this exercise is learning to slurp and keeping the contents in your mouth while at the same time letting air into your lungs.
The Final Big Boss: Slurping Noodles
Do the same thing you did in the previous step but instead of water this time, you will be slurping noodles. Use cut noodles and cold soup for practice.
There are some advantages and reasons of using this “slurping” method when eating ramen...
1. You can prevent noodles from getting soggy and soup from getting cold. If you slurp, you can eat noodles quickly, so you can enjoy its chewiness. In addition, it is rude to the chef to not eat food as soon as it is served to you.
2. You can enjoy the flavor of ramen at least 4 times more if you slurp. Having a combination of air, noodles and soup together allows you to feel more flavor in your mouth.
3. Japanese people find it disgusting to bite off excess noodles and for the excess pieces to go back into the soup bowl. That is why slurping is preferred because you can bring all the noodles into your mouth at once.
Remember that chewing noisily or eating with your mouth open are still bad manners in Japan, but only slurping is OK. Depending on where you are and which way you are most comfortable with, try out both ways and see which way is the best way for you to enjoy ramen.
Now that we've learned two different ways of enjoying ramen, what are you going to eat out of your ramen bowl first?
In the ramen world, a big topic of debate is: "Noodle first or soup first?”
Personally, I prefer drinking a spoon of soup first to catch a glimpse of the overall flavour of the ramen, but today, I will be introducing the two differing point of views.
Ramen consists of mainly soup and noodles. Both play a very important role in ramen and both are irreplaceable. You cannot call a bowl of noodles “ ramen” even if one of these two key ingredients is missing.
The reasons why I like to take a sip of soup first...
1. For me, the broth is essentially the “soul” of the ramen. The soup sets the overall “ ambience” of the ramen I’m about to enjoy. I want to get to know this taste first to see what I should be expecting. Soup is unique and different in each restaurant. The texture of noodles is important, but the most important element of ramen is its flavor and taste. The differentiating aspect of ramen is the soup.
2. Drinking soup is relaxing and, in its own way, therapeutic. It warms up your body and relieves stress. This is especially enjoyable in the winter time.
3. The broth is the aspect in which most ramen chefs put their effort into the most.
The reasons why people eat noodles first are...
1. In some ramen restaurants, the soup is used as an “accessory” to the noodles, so therefore, the taste is adjusted to bring out the best taste in the noodles. This is why sometimes ramen broth is much saltier than regular soup.
2. Because they are hungry and want something filling first.
I personally prefer to drink soup first but I can also see why some people choose to eat noodles first. Many people don't care about this hot topic in the ramen world and/or don’t even know that this is a real discussion topic for ramen enthusiasts.
Ramen is a local Japanese food, so enjoy it in your own way whether it's slurping loudly or eating quietly with a spoon.
That is the #1 rule for enjoying ramen!