Eating ramen seems pretty straightforward. However, properly enjoying a bowl is almost as complex as the dish itself. To help you skillfully navigate the noodle-packed Japanese soup we turned to a pair of experts: Ce Bien, corporate executive chef of Roka Akor, which has six locations, including three in Chicago, and Tomo Takahashi, chef and founder of Los Angeles’s Robata Jinya. Read on for tips on how to ramen like a pro and then find a restaurant near you on OpenTable.
Look beyond tonkotsu
The cloudy, pork-rich broth is the most iconic and well-known ramen base. However, there are plenty of others that deserve your love and attention, including chintan (clear soup), those made with chicken, and various vegetarian options.
Bling your bowl
You can add extra noodles, menma (bamboo shoots), toasted nori (seaweed) sheets, a soft- boiled egg, or other items. Toppings are a matter of personal preference. There is no right or wrong way to dress up your ramen.
Pay your respects
Pick the bowl up with both your hands and bring it close to your face. Inhale deeply to savor all the scents and then take a sip from the side to sample the broth.
Ramen is designed to be eaten quickly. Messing around with your phone too long, trying to get the perfect shot or waiting for everyone to be served — means you’ll be left with a bowl full of lukewarm broth and soggy noodles.
“Use both the chopsticks and spoon like a knife and fork,” says Bien. “Have them both in your hand at the same time.”
Slurping is encouraged
The slurping cools down the noodles and broth as they’re being consumed. This will allow you to eat them at peak freshness without burning your tongue or the roof of your mouth. “Plus, you also mix all the flavors together,” says Takahashi, thereby creating a harmonious bite.
Forget your usual manners
“Ramen is comfort food, not fine dining,” says Bien. “When you eat it, it’s not about being a gentleman or a lady. You make some noise and just go for it.”
No biting, please
“You don’t want to bite the noodles,” says Takahashi. “You want to eat them all at once.” You may need to take an extra breath beforehand to have the wind power to do it, but the extra effort is worth it.
Dunk and cover
If you don’t eat a protein or a vegetable in single bite, submerge it back in the broth. That will keep it warm until you want to finish it.
Clean your bowl
When all the noodles and toppings are eaten, pick up the bowl with both hands and drink the remaining broth. Finishing everything is a way of showing the chef you appreciated the time and effort they put into making your meal.
So with the proper etiquette and super slurping technique, you’re ready to enjoy your next bowl. Search for restaurants serving ramen near you on OpenTable. Itadakimasu.
Do you have any do’s and don’ts for eating ramen? Let us know what they are here or over on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. And, remember to snap + share your #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.