Ramen Etiquette and Handy Tips
There aren’t any complicated rules for eating ramen, but a few simple customs should be observed. Ordering in a ramen shop doesn’t require much vocabulary, so not knowing any Japanese isn’t a problem. You can also get hints on what to do by observing the other patrons.
It’s OK to slurp your noodles
Ramen is meant to be slurped, because you need to savor the taste of the broth and the noodles together. The chef has spent countless hours coming up with the perfect combination of noodle shape and soup thickness to ensure that the liquid sticks to the noodles. Although it may be considered bad manners in the West, in Japan ramen is all about slurping; it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
Use disposable aprons and hair ties when they are available
Energetic slurping tends to create splashes, so some places offer disposable aprons and hair ties to help diners stay tidy. After you place your order and before your ramen arrives, check whether others around you are using aprons. If so, just ask for an “eh-pu-ron” and you will likely be understood.
Eat tsukemen as you would cold soba buckwheat noodles
When you order tsukemen, the noodles and dipping sauce come in separate dishes. The noodles are fragrant and flavorful even when eaten on their own, and the dipping sauce is specially blended for a great taste experience. Dip the noodles into the sauce and eat them a few bites at a time, just as you would eat cold soba served with sauce on the side. Never pour the sauce over the noodles.
Return your bowl to the serving counter
Once you’ve finished your meal, return your empty bowl to the serving counter and wipe your table for the benefit of the next customer. Most ramen shops are short on space and have limited seating or long lines of people waiting, so proper manners call for not lingering after you’ve eaten.
Know the magic word
“O-susume” (recommendation) is the word to say if you’re wondering what to order. There are often lots of varieties of ramen and a multitude of toppings to choose from. At many shops, patrons buy a ticket from a machine instead of ordering from a server. If there’s no English signage, and you’re not sure what to choose, ask for “o-susume.” The shop staff will be happy to suggest an option that they’ll serve with great pride.