"To make loud sucking noises while eating" — this is an awful description, but a real definition of "slurping," and slurping is what you need to do in order to get the ramen in your belly.
While enjoying a bowl recently, I noticed I was the least graceful at the table delivering the broth and noodles to my mouth. There's a ladle-like spoon! There's chopsticks! There's people around who can see me! My dinner companions seamlessly swept the bowl's contents up with hardly a drop dripping or noodle slipping. "How do they do it?" I thought, wondering if was my 3rd glass of wine could be blamed for my lack of coordination. But I'd been here before, abandoning half a bowl of ramen, what a waste... what an embarrassment. I am not worthy, etc.
So there must be a correct way for any fool to do this, right? Yes. Just stop being so goddamn precious about eating the ramen, and prepare to make some noise. In my brief quest to find out the best technique, I turned to Jared Scharff, SNL guitarist and ramen enthusiast. He gave me some quick tips on how to eat ramen "like a local in Japan." They are as follows:
- Slurp quickly. A ramen bowl should be consumed in around 5 minutes. Don't let the noodles sit around!
- Slurp loudly. Just like when you taste wine, suck in that air when slurping ramen. If you're not making the sound, you're not slurping right!
- Don't be afraid to pick the bowl up with your hands and drink some of that good broth at the end. It's allowed!
I fully trust Jared here, but still, I wanted a 2nd opinion. I asked Yusuke Nakamura, operations manager at Ippudo (fact: the city's best ramen joint), and he expertly explained the Art of the Slurp:
Slurping... we slurp because that's how we can enjoy soup and noodle at the same time while we cool down ramen. Noodle is in the soup, when you lift noodle out of soup it contains soup but soup drips back to the bowl, just like mop in the bucket. By slurping we can have noodle and soup at the same time before soup goes away. it is vital part of ramen eating. it's against western manner, but it is a sin not enjoy the food the best way you can in my culture. That being said, everybody should have a bowl of ramen the way they want, maybe someone comes up with better to eat. We are open to new ideas.
As you can see, in the world of ramen there aren't strict rules, just gentle guidelines.
Nakamura gave me a few more helpful hints that I'll share, should you ever feel overwhelmed by a loaded bowl that sits in front of you: "Ramen should be always hot, temperature is big part of deliciousness. So we recommend to eat while it's hot. Some ramen have spicy paste, garlic oil, wasabi..etc. We recommend to have ramen as you mix those toppings little by little, you can enjoy different flavors in one bowl of ramen. Some customers just mix everything at the beginning and have it, but that's not how it is meant to be." And if you end up with an asymmetrical situation—no more noodles and a lot of broth? Go for the Kae-dama option, which at Ippudo Westside is $2:
Kae-dama is a system that offers you an extra serving of noodles. When you have almost finished your first serving of noodles, order by saying, "Kae-dama, please." In a few minutes the server or Ramen chef will bring you another 'ball of noodles' and put it in the soup. At that time, you must have enough soup in the bowl to accommodate the new noodles; that is, you shouldn't drink too much of the soup if you are going to order the Kae-dama.
So now you know. Tune in next week for our explainer on how to fold pizza!