How to Eat Ramen Like a Pro in Japanese Restaurants

Ramen 101: How to Order and Eat Japanese Ramen Like a Pro

This is how to eat like a ramen master.

Nothing screams “foreigner” in Japan like the only silent table at a ramen house. If you’re the only customer in the restaurant who isn’t slurping a bowl of noodles, it’s a clear giveaway that you’re a tourist. 

Last time, we wrote about how to eat Korean barbecue in South Korean restaurants. But are there rules on eating Japanese ramen too? In the comfort of your home, definitely not. Throw everything you know about ramen etiquette out the window and chug that thing in a bottle if you want to. But in Japan? Well… 

Much of the ramen etiquette in Japan is unspoken. You might only sense you’re doing something wrong when you see one of the locals giving you the side-eye. Since the last thing you want is to offend anybody at a Japanese restaurant, we’ve thrown together a guide on this dish that we love so much. Here’s how to eat ramen like a pro in Japan! 

Also read: Tokyo’s Best Ramen – After Going to 30 Ramen Shops!

1. Hold your chopsticks the right way

You probably know how to wield your chopsticks already. But just in case, here’s a quick refresher. First, you’ll want to hold the upper chopstick like a pencil between your thumb and index finger. Next, place the second chopstick at the base between your thumb and index finger, so that it’s resting against your ring finger. See if you can move your chopsticks up and down. Everything working great? Now, you’re ready to do some noodle lifting! 

2. Choose your ramen at the vending machine

Many Japanese ramen shops like Ichiran Ramen have vending machines, where you can order ramen and customise the toppings to your satisfaction. Generally, you have to insert your coins or bills into the machine first. Once you see the buttons light up, then you can press the buttons for the ramen and side dishes that you want. Claim the food ticket that falls into the tray of the machine, and give this to the staff so that they can prepare your order. 

3. Don’t share your bowl of ramen with other people

Some people may be tempted to order one bowl of ramen and split it among their friends to save costs. However, sharing a bowl of ramen with several people is a huge no-no in Japan! Every customer has to order their own meal, especially if you’re dining in a small shop with limited seating. If you feel like you can’t finish a bowl on your own, you can always choose to order a smaller serving of ramen. This way, nobody will be offended! 

Also read: 15 Don’ts You Should Know While Visiting Japan

4. Avoid seasoning your ramen right away

In Japan, it’s considered rude to overwhelm your broth with hot sauce or additional spices before tasting the soup. Really, it’s almost like a slap in the face for the chef. It’s like you’re saying what they’ve prepared for you isn’t quite good enough or that the flavours are lacking. Always taste the soup first, before you decide to sprinkle any condiments. But refrain from adding too much hot sauce, so as not to overpower the broth. 

At home, though, a bowl of ramen is yours to enjoy any way you like. By all means, go crazy with different sauces and toppings! 

5. When your bowl arrives, dig in

One frustration that many Japanese chefs have with customers? It’s when they take too long chatting with each other or taking photographs of the food. What was once a steaming bowl of ramen is getting colder by the minute, the springy noodles stretching and disintegrating. 

For this reason, the key to enjoying ramen is to eat it as quickly as you can. With your chopsticks, lift only as many noodles as you can chew, while using your spoon to soak the noodles in the broth. Otherwise, if you let the ramen noodles sit in the bowl for too long, the texture of the noodles and the mouth-watering flavours of the soup — so much better for the piping heat involved — just won’t be the same. 

Nobody wants to eat soggy noodles, so why wait? As soon as the bowl arrives on your table, set everything aside and get to slurping! 

6. Slurp away, loudly and appreciatively

How to Eat Ramen Like a Pro

Wondering how to eat ramen properly? Just enjoy it as loudly as you can, taking great relish to slurp every noodle. No need to be shy about it, too. 

While many foreigners think slurping is something Japanese locals do out of politeness, there’s a practical use for slurping as well. By drawing air along with the noodles, you’re cooling the food down. Since you’re supposed to consume ramen in a matter of minutes, this technique lets you enjoy the ramen at its best without scalding your tongue. 

To any of our readers who might be having difficulty putting this into practice: Don’t worry, it happens! If your fear of appearing rude is distracting you from slurping, this is what you can do. Shape your mouth into a tiny “o,” as if you’re about to inhale a really hot cup of coffee. Then bring the noodles to your mouth and suck them right up!

How to Eat Ramen Like a Pro

Slurping sends your compliments to the chef and signals to everyone that you think the food is delicious. Do the opposite, and you might get the occasional side-eye from the Japanese locals sitting next to you. It’s frowned upon to eat your ramen in total silence in Japan. 

When you’re finished with your noodles, you can also tip the bowl back and savour the rest of the broth.

7. Don’t linger too long at the table

How to Eat Ramen Like a Pro: Don't Linger at the Table

Image credit: Dovile Ramoskaite

Try not to stick around for too long when you’re finished eating. Japanese ramen shops, especially the really delicious and famous ones, tend to attract very long lines outside. As a result, service needs to be fast to keep the line constantly moving. You pull up a chair to eat — or you eat while standing, if there are no available seats at the stall — and once you’re done, you clean up, thank the staff for the delicious meal, and go. 

As you can imagine, this unspoken rule has mostly to do with the tight space and limited seating capacity of these establishments. For this reason, you’re not meant to chat with your friends or remain at your seat any longer than necessary. 

Also read: What to Eat in Japan: 23 Must-Try Foods Other Than Sushi

There you have it, an easy guide on how to eat ramen in Japan! No need to get too obsessed with these details at home, of course. Ramen is meant to be savoured and enjoyed — not something to get too worked up about. So long as you aren’t offending anyone on your next visit to Japan, feel free to get as creative as you like! 

Now, please excuse us. We have a bowl of ramen to eat. 

About Author

Tiffany Conde
Tiffany Conde

Tiffany is a writer based in Manila. When she was younger, she knew she wanted to write stories or go on adventures—now, she's learning to do both. She enjoys being swept up in books that spark her curiosity for new places, both real and imaginary.

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