Why You Should Slurp Your Noodles In Japan

Picture taken from: http://www.japanblogger.com/Slurping-noodles.html.

One thing that puzzles many foreigners (“gaijin“/外人)about Japanese table manners is the common custom of slurping one’s noodles when eating in Japan. This is because the loud noises that are made by diners who inhale and slurp their noodles (ramen, soba, udon, etc.) with gusto are considered “impolite” or “bad table manners” in many countries outside Japan. My fellow foreign friends also exclaimed in surprise and sometimes consternation when they first came across such a custom.

“I thought the Japanese people were supposed to be very polite, even when eating.” one of my shell-shocked foreign friends remarked.

Indeed. Japanese people are extremely courteous and socially aware that they consciously inhale and slurp their noodle and soup dishes all too audibly – just because Japanese social norms dictate that it is polite to do so.

Stunned at this revelation? Well, rest assured, you are not alone. I was also dumbfounded when I realized this particular norm when I talked about it to my Japanese friends. After some discussions and also research, I have come across a couple of theories as to why many Japanese people slurp their noodles loudly at mealtimes. I shall share 3 of these reasons below.

Reason #1: Slurping makes it easier to consume hot noodles or soups

Some Japanese justify their slurping because they say that slurping cools off hot noodles when the noodles come into full direct contact with one’s tongue and ultimately makes it easier to consume them. This group of people also remarked that as time got on, their habit of slurping noodles became so ingrained that regardless of the temperature of the noodles (i.e. hot or cold), they would still slurp their noodles.

Reason #2: Slurping makes dishes taste better and more flavory

According to this site, slurping aerates the noodles and the broth (when eating noodles with soup). Hence the flavors of the dish become more palatable and enhanced before consumption.

Reason #3: Slurping shows enjoyment of food and appreciation to the chef(s)

Many of the Japanese people whom I talked to admitted that slurping displays one’s enjoyment of delicious food, and that one is putting in effort to appreciate it. Such outward displays are especially important when eating in restaurants or in front of the chef(s) to show affirmation for the stellar quality of food.

My Thoughts…

The aforementioned 3 reasons explaining why many Japanese slurp their noodles and soup seem convincing, don’t they? Well, some foreigners have lamented on the difficulty of inhaling and slurping noodles just to show their appreciation and politeness. I empathize with them because many cultures do not condone slurping during mealtimes and hence many non-Japanese people have been brought up eating daintily and as silently as possible. For all that, I admit that I never had much of a problem with adapting to Japan’s noodle slurping culture. The reason is because I have been the “odd one out” growing up in Singapore, because I have always found it easier to savor delectable soups and noodle cuisines simply by slurping them. I have been raised in an environment and culture that places a premium on eating with as little noise as possible. Thus I was genuinely (but pleasantly) surprised upon discovering that the Japanese food manners regarding slurping were quite the opposite!

The next time I go back to my favourite ramen shop, I am going to slurp my noodles as animatedly as possible.

【Done by Marie http://www.wordswilltravel.com

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