Ramen has got to be one of the best foods in Japan, period. Keeping you warm during a cold winter night, or being the perfect comfort food after yet another drinking session with co-workers, good Ramen has always had a special place in my heart. There’s one thing I’ve always wondered, however: Why do Japanese People, who usually have such good manners, slurp their noodles?
Proper dining etiquette is something that can make or break a great night out at a restaurant. None of us want to sit across from the one person who slurps his/her noodles, or soup so loudly you eat vicariously through that person with every intake. Proper table manners, including not slurping, was drilled into me since I was just a young child.
In Japan, however, all that proper table manner stuff goes right out the window, as you can slurp to your heart’s content here; as long as you’re eating noodles. As a matter of fact, it’s considered rather strange/impolite if you don’t slurp your noodles in Japan. While it may seem rather peculiar at first, the slurping of noodles actually serves three purposes:
- It helps to cool down the steaming-hot noodles in your mouth, as you’re essentially sucking in lots of air while devouring the hot and delicious noodles.
- Apparently, to most people in Japan, slurping is a way of expressing your enjoyment of eating the noodles. In Japan, deliciousness is indeed conveyed by the sound of slurping (when it comes to noodles), and for many Japanese people, it actually makes the noodles taste better.
While I will not go as far as compare eating Ramen with a wine-tasting, in which you would swish the wine in the glass, and then gurgle the first sip by sucking air through your mouths, I will say there may be something to this theory. The slurping could, indeed, enhance flavors. By sucking in copious amounts of air, you can eat the noodles while they’re still steaming, and thus letting them unfold their full, delicious flavor.
- One of the most annoying things about eating Ramen or other types of noodles, such as Soba, or Kishimen, actually, is that no matter how carefully you eat them, you always end up with at least one stain on your shirt, tie, or clothes. That is, unless you’ve perfected the art of slurping. You see, if done correctly, it can prevent noodle whiplash and save your precious tie and/or shirt from that last drop of sauce hanging off the noodles. Getting to this level of zen-like noodle-eating mastery takes a lot of practice however.
So, whether you slurp to save your mouth from scalding hot noodles, to enhance their flavor, or to save yourself yet another trip to the drycleaners, you’re expected to slurp away with reckless abandon after entering Japan. As the old saying goes, when in Rome….