It may seem obvious how to eat a bowl of ramen, but some people freeze up when facing the steaming bowl of noodles and broth for the first time. One thing’s for sure: It’s meant to be eaten quickly. That’s why in Tokyo — and at Ten, Teiichi Sakurai’s new ramen shop in Sylvan Thirty — diners eat it while standing at a counter.
“It’s very simple,” says Sakurai, who explains that most people sip the broth using the lenge (Asian soup spoon), alternating with bites of ramen or garnish, which are eaten with chopsticks. “Just one sip, then pick up a noodle and slurp it, and some vegetable or chashu. Eat the noodles enjoying different flavors, together, slurping for smoothness of the noodle or the soup’s flavor. There are no rules, but I grew up that way.”
How about the garnishes: Should one mix them in or not? “Some people mix, and some eat them separately,” says Sakurai. “It’s very, very free.” The balance of noodles to garnishes, he adds, is key.
And the actual noodle slurping? You suck air into your mouth through your teeth, just as you would aerate wine in your mouth at a wine tasting, to bring up the flavors, says the chef. “That is very similar to slurping.”
Then there’s the issue of whether you should use the lenge to catch the noodles before transporting them to your mouth. “A lot of females do that,” says Sakurai, “in Japan, too.” He conjectures that it may be because that way the soup doesn’t wind up on your clothes as you slurp. “But that’s not the best way to eat it. Just slurp it.” With chopsticks, that is. “And taste the soup, back and forth, back and forth.”
And remember to pay as much attention to the flavor and body of the broth as you do to the taste and texture of the noodles and garnishes. “My father always told me when I was a kid that’s how you can tell a good ramen shop,” says Sakurai. “When people finish the bowl, it’s completely empty. That’s the prize you need to look for. If the bowl is empty, it’s a great ramen shop.”