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How to Eat Ramen Properly in Japan

Want to eat ramen like a local in Japan? Consider these the dos and don'ts of eating ramen!

inside tokyo michelin star ramen restaurant Tsuta
Ramen etiquette is not that strict, but let's avoid getting the side-eye from locals!

While the ramen world isn't as fussy as say, the sushi world, these points below will ensure a tastier, more authentic ramen experience.

1. Soup First, Noodles Later

Think of the soup as the heart and soul of any good bowl of ramen. In the kitchen, this is where a lot of work goes into.

eating ramen properly at Tokyo ramen shop Oshima with a renge for the soup
Take a sip from the soup first - and then dig into the noodles

Before taking your chopsticks to the noodles, grab the renge (ramen soup spoon). With it, take a big sip of soup first. It's important that you enjoy that delicious soup by itself.

You don't even have to use the provided spoon - it's completely acceptable to drink directly from the bowl. But do be careful - ramen is served hot in Japan!

ramen being served in a japanese ramen restaurant
Don't burn yourself - ramen is served piping hot!

2. Slurping Is Encouraged, Even Necessary?

You may have been told from a young age that making sounds when eating is one of the worst things you could do at the dinner table.

In Japan, things are a little bit different. Japanese are fond of slurping their noodles. They do so for three reasons:

1. To cool down the hot soup

2. To show appreciation to the chef

3. To take in more air through your nose and enhance the flavors

Tokyo miso ramen noodles
It might be awkward at first, but slurping is very normal in Japan!

Slurping isn't required. But for the above reasons it's definitely recommended.

3. No Need To Mix

There seems to be an obsession outside of Japan with mixing ramen soup like it's some sort of cake batter. I'm not sure where this comes from.

To be fair, there are some ramen styles that require mixing (e.g. Abura Soba, or Soupless Ramen). But for ramen with soup, there's really no need to mix everything.

Tokyo spicy ramen bowl at Bingiri
Mixing the soup changes how your ramen tastes all together - and not necessarily for the better

For one, certain toppings can get soft and soggy once they're deeper in the soup. Bok choy won't be as crisp or spring onions as fresh tasting.

If there's a topping like minced pork, mixing can make the soup pleasantly meatier. However, the soup is going to get meaty later on. Just be patient. In summary, mixing is an act that hurriedly fuses everything together too soon. As mentioned earlier, mixing even diminishes the effect of toppings.

4. Show Restraint With Condiments

There are certain styles of ramen that welcome the use of condiments. This includes crushed sesame seeds in Hakata (Tonkotsu) ramen and vinegar in Abura Soba.

inside a japanese ramen restaurant offering condiments
Give your ramen a chance and don't immediately add condiments

But we recommend enjoying the soup by itself. It's the purest representation of the chef and the ramen itself. Remember - when you add condiments, there's no turning back. If you want to add something, it's better to do so towards the end.

5. Eat Right Away

Ramen is best enjoyed at the temperature its served in Japan - hot! To be transparent, I'm a regular offender with this one. I take a good amount of photos and videos before eating my ramen. But I do try and take all footage as quickly as possible. I'm usually done within a minute or two.

Frank taking pictures of ramen inside a ramen restaurant
I'm not saying you can't take pictures/videos (that would be hypocritical), but try to keep it quick!

The reason to dive in quickly is that ramen soup isn't the same when it's lukewarm. It loses part of its spirit. Furthermore, there's nothing worse than lifeless, soggy noodles.

I'm a firm believer in "you do you". These 5 pointers aren't meant to be commandments. But if you follow them and attempt to eat ramen properly, you'll be thanking me later.


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