For a smooth slurping experience
It has become almost impossible to find someone that has never had ramen before, let alone someone that has never heard of it. Still, without knowledge of the Japanese language, stepping into a ramen shop in Japan can be a little bit intimidating. That said, this is an experience not to be missed, so get familiar on how ramen is served and slurped in Japan with this article before you duck under a noren, or shop curtain.
1. How to order
Most ramen shop menus are very simple, but that doesn’t mean ordering is simple if you don’t know how to. While ordering methods differ depending on the shop, here is some basic knowledge that won’t hurt you on your ramen rendezvous.
Ticket vending machines: At the majority of ramen shops, you purchase a food ticket at a ticket machine (usually located at the entrance) and put this ticket on the counter in front of your seat or on your table. If the ticket machine has no pictures and you can’t read Japanese, find any of the following characters for a portion of ramen → ラーメン らーめん 中華そば
Once you get used to purchasing food tickets in advance, it is easy to forget to pay at ramen shops that have no ticket machines, so be mindful!
From Konaotoshi to Barikata: At most ramen shops, you can order how you want your noodles cooked. This is especially common in Fukuoka Prefecture, where you will hear customers loudly shout their preferences. If you see people around you do this, how about giving it a try yourself? Just shout any of the following: konaotoshi (almost uncooked), harigane (extremely firm), barikata (very firm), kata (firm), futsu (normal), yawa (soft), bariyawa (very soft).
2. Mastering the art of slurping, or deciding not to.
Depending on your culture, slurping noodles might be unheard of. However, in Japan, slurping your ramen (or other noodles for that matter) are the basics of the basics. Noodles are slurped not with the pure purpose of cooling them down, but also to allow the soup’s flavor to spread throughout one’s mouth. This might sound strange if you are not used to the concept, but note that wine experts are on the side of the Japanese as they prefer to slurp their wine in order to savor its fragrance throughout the mouth. Slurping your noodles can also be seen as a gesture towards the master, showing that you are enjoying your bowl to the max.
Once you have mastered the way of slurping (and even if you decide to go on without doing so), let’s move on to the next step!
3. Don’t take too much time!
Dining at ease while enjoying a conversation is great, but not advisable when you are having ramen. The noodles loose their firmness and become too soft after a short period of time, so eating them right after they are served is considered best. Also, keep in mind that popular ramen shops often have people waiting in long lines in front of the shop to get their hands on a bowl of ramen, so staying too long after finishing your dish can be impolite.
4. End with a gesture from your side
Some might say that the customer is king, but showing that you enjoyed your slurp will make your ramen master’s day. If you are sitting at a counter seat, putting your finished ramen bowl back on the counter top is a gesture that is always welcome. Don’t forget to say “Gochisosama” (thank you for the meal), and give a friendly nod as you leave.