Ramen is one of the foods that anybody visiting Japan should have. Did you know that slurping ramen is actually the most delicious way to eat ramen? Here you will find some tips so that you can fully enjoy the delicious flavors of ramen.
1. On your first time to a restaurant, order their simplest ramen or the "deluxe" version
It is normal to not know what to order the first time you visit a restaurant. Most ramen restaurants list their most simple and standard type of ramen on the right end of the menu (for vertically written menus) or right at the top of it (for horizontally written menus). In the case of restaurants with a ticket vending machine, this is usually the button on the top left corner. If you are not sure about what to order, we recommend choosing their simples ramen in order to get a taste of the "characteristic flavor of that specific restaurant". Also, if they have any "deluxe" or "recommended" dishes that the restaurant is particularly proud of, definitely try and order them too.
If you can talk with a member of the staff, you can also ask them for their recommendation. They will surely let you know what the restaurant's most popular "signature dish" is.
2. Choose a seat with a full view of the kitchen
This goes for all kinds of restaurants (not just ramen restaurants!) but the polite thing to do when the place is crowded is to go to the seat that the staff has chosen for you. However, if the restaurant is not very crowded, there are a few free seats, and you can choose where to sit, try and go for a counter seat with a full view of the kitchen. The closest seat to the cook is the best.
Just looking at the powerful and efficient movements of the cook is a lot of fun, and this will also increase your expectations for the ramen that you are about to have. In addition, if you are in the closest seat to the cook, you can directly get your freshly cooked ramen from him and start eating when it is most delicious.
3. When you have ramen, start by "tasting a spoonful of the soup"
Japanese ramen is originally a rather casual kind of dish, so there is no strict etiquette to it. You can choose how you prefer to eat it, but here we would like to provide you with information about the standard way to eat it, which will allow you to fully savor the flavor of the ramen.
First of all, take your time to savor one mouthful of the soup using the china spoon. Then, for the next mouthful, use your chopsticks to eat some noodles, and savor them together with the soup. From here on, continue eating alternating between the noodles, toppings, and soup. As time passes, the noodles will absorb water from the soup and stretch, losing their inherent flavor. When you are served the ramen that you ordered, try and eat it as quickly as possible.
4. Slurp the noodles
Loudly slurping the ramen noodles in is considered the cool way to eat them, and the sound is considered "delicious". There are even scientific explanations for why "slurping the noodles makes them taste more delicious". If you are going to try eating ramen the Japanese style, pick up the noodles with your chopsticks without wrapping them around like you would do with pasta, lift them, and begin slurping them while they hang from the chopsticks.
However, this does not mean that not slurping is bad manners. Even among the Japanese, there are people who do not like the sound made when slurping or the soup splashing about, so they prefer to eat their ramen quietly. If you do not want to slurp your noodles, the smartest way is to use your chopsticks to place a mouthful of noodles in the china spoon, and then to carry the noodles from the spoon to your mouth.
5. When you are done, drink all the leftover soup
If you still have space in your stomach after eating all the noodles and toppings, the cool thing to do is to drink all the leftover soup. This is a way to compliment the cook, meaning that "the soup was so delicious that you had to drink it all". If you are having a lunch set meal with rice on the side, we recommend putting the rice in the leftover soup to make "ojiya" and eat it that way.
However, ramen soup is generally very salty and greasy, so those who are concerned about their health do not have to force themselves to eat it. Saying "gochiso-sama" (thank you for the meal) to the person in the kitchen is enough to let the cook know that you liked it. By the way, if there are other customers waiting in line for their turn to eat, the smart thing to do is to not overstay, pay your bill, and leave quickly once you are done.
Did you find these tips useful? The flavor of the soup and noodles are very different depending on the restaurant, so do try different kinds of ramen and compare them when you come to Japan.