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Making noise when eating, especially slurping when relishing noodles, is heavily frowned upon in most parts of the world as it is considered rude and horridly uncouth.
But you’ve probably seen movies or video clips where the Japanese noisily slurp their noodles. Does that mean it is okay to slurp noodles in Japan or was it all done as part of a script?
In this article, let us find out if slurping noodles in Japan is considered a breach of etiquette or if it is totally fine.
Slurping noodles in Japan
If you’ve never been to a ramen bar in Japan, you’d be in for a big surprise when you finally get to eat in one and hear the rhythmic slurping of noodles made by people around you.
Yes, this unseemly soundtrack of slurping ramen or saimin noodles in Japanese bars is common and widely practiced by the general populace.
But why do they do it?
Reasons behind the slurping phenomenon in Japan
Being known for their staunchness in following rules and being polite, it is somewhat shocking that the Japanese that typically disapprove of noise to avoid disturbing others consider noisily slurping noodles is normal and acceptable.
What is the reason behind this oddity?
As weird as it may sound, slurping noodles in Japan signifies appreciation of the chef’s cooking skills. It is a way of telling the chef how much you are enjoying the food he prepared.
If you’ve seen the “Thor” movie where he smashed the mug to show his gratitude and satisfaction? Slurping noodles in Japan is the same way!
Another reason for slurping is that it cools off the hot broth and noodles, making it easier to ingest without getting scalded. What’s more, this process can affect the flavor of the broth and its thickness.
It also allows you to eat the noodles while it is at its best texture and form, which is right after being boiled, without getting soggy from soaking in the hot broth for too long.
Keep in mind that noodles are best when they are springy not when they are mushy, so should be eaten quickly and not slowly – hence the slurping.
Moreover, slurping noodles aerate both the broth and the noodles that amplifies the flavors when they touch your taste buds.
Slurping enhances the flavor of the noodles and broth as your sense of smell picks out the delicious aroma of the broth thru the air you sucked in your mouth that reaches your nasal cavity.
This process is akin to what wine connoisseurs do when sampling good wine to expose the best taste and flavor that’s hiding in it.
Lastly, slurping noodles adds delightful sensations when eating instead of stuffing a twirl of them inside your mouth. You get to revel in feeling the smooth noodles coated with flavorful hot broth passing thru your lips and the insides of your mouth.
Art of Slurping
In Japan, there is art, rules, and a standard way of doing things. The same is true for slurping. Just making sloppy noises wouldn’t make the cut.
To fully enjoy the bursting flavors of the broth while ensuring the noodles are firm when you eat them, the first thing to do is sample a mouthful of the broth before sucking the noodles.
That’s why deciding whether to use a spoon or fork to eat ramen is important.
When it is time to slurp the noodles, make sure to get just the right amount to avoid cutting the noodles mid-way slurping when you realize you cannot stuff them all in your mouth.
Moreover, keep in mind that when slurping, draw in as much air as you can to draw in not just the noodles but also the broth to enjoy the flavor, at the same time cool them down for easier eating.
Should you start slurping noodles too?
If you are visiting Japan and eating at a ramen bar, there is absolutely no reason for you not to slurp noodles if you want to experience how the locals do it. In any case, you are in Japan to see and experience firsthand their culture and tradition.
However, if you are uncomfortable making noise and do not wish to slurp your expensive ramen noodles, no one would tell you off or call you rude for not doing so.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to your personal preference.