HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Question about food etiquette and eating noodles

I think for most Western cultures, it would be considered rude to "slurp" while eating soup noodles (or even non-soup noodles). True?

But I believe the converse is true for most Asian cultures. Many Chinese, for example, consider slurping to be a complimentary sign -- i.e., that the eater thinks the noodles are chowhound-worthy. True?

Why is there a difference (if in fact there is one)?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I believe that you're right on both counts. I've always understood it to be, in part at least, a function of the actual heat at which the dishes are served. IE, Asian noodles tend to be served very hot (steaming hot, not spicy hot...though that too, at times, obviously) and often in a broth of some kind and the slurping helps cool them while eating them.

    Its entirely possible I'm making this up.

    1. In Asia it is not necessary to slurp and it is unnecessary to not slurp.

      Cultures are dynamic, however, and affluent young people in places like Shanghai, Bangkok and Hanoi are slurping less.

      1. I recall in the movie "Tampopo," an etiquette class is being taught in Japan about eating spaghetti quietly, properly turning the fork and using the spoon to help, eating small bites, etc etc. The group hears loud slurping noises, and sees a foreigner eating spaghetti VERY loudly...as a result, the group breaks down into a who-can-slurp-the-loudest competition, including the instructor. Amusing scene.

        I slurp my ramen, pho, hot n sour soup, etc when eating in Asian restaurants. I don't in western restaurants. Force of habit maybe?

        1. japan is the country thinking slurping is a complinent about the "noodle soup," i remenber seeing one movie play by tom salleck, he went to play baseball in japan trying to fit in with other japanese baseball player, and he slurped too loud, and everybody was ataring at him

          2 Replies
          1. re: monkfanatic

            I can still remember my introduction to eating noodles in Japan (soup noodles). My host told me that it was OK to slurp. What he meant was that I should not be embarassed if I slurped. It was just a given that some slurping would occur. It did NOT mean that I should make an effort to slurp - that would be taken as poor table manners, whether you were Japanese or Western.

            1. re: ambrose

              absolutely true. if it happens, it happens, but why really make a show of it? some people say its to aerate the noodles or the broth, but why deal with the mess? it just means, take nice hearty spoonfuls or chopstickfuls without being exaggerated. besides, would you want to deal with the ensuing spray all over your shirt? and, btw, noodles are a bad first-date option, no matter what country or cuision your noodles are from!

          2. Not all Asian cultures are the same. In Vietnam, it is considered rude to slurp noodles.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Shazam

              I read it was rude in Korean culture as well.

              1. re: Shazam

                I haven't seen/heard slurping of noodles in Singapore or Malaysia, either. Or Sri Lanka, but Sri Lanka isn't a big noodle country anyway, so...

              2. No news here, but, in several trips to Japan, and hence to Ramen shops, it has been instilled in me that slurping your noodles is like telling the proprietor that you approve, that you like them.

                It also makes sense in the sense of enhancing enjoyment. Noodles absorb broth and surrounding flavors, so by slurping you are getting the most out of the experience, and making a show of it.

                I find, from a western point of view, the slurping to be a release; the constraints are off. Anything's possible.

                1. My experience living in Japan and dining in Chinese and Japanese restaurants here is that you don't intentionally slurp, but you are fine if you do. I found Japanese diners to be very quiet, the sober ones excepted, and if you slurp too loudly you might draw some looks.

                  1. Hong Kong Chinese here, and I always got berated by family if I slurped.

                    1. most of the chinese use chopstick to put the noodle in a spoon and than eat out of a spoon

                        1. I was born and raised in America and grew up not slurping my soup and noodles, but my morose it all the time. Not only does she slurp, but she also chews very loudly just because she knows I can't stand it. I know it's an Asian thing to slurp, but IMHO its really rude. Jus imagine yourself doing it in public at a restaurant.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Iamvivian

                            Not only can I imagine myself slurping noodles in public in Asian restaurants, I can HEAR myself slurping noodles in Asian restaurants...and so can everybody within 75 feet. What's your point?

                            1. re: ricepad

                              Have some manners when you're out in a restaurant. I'm Taiwanese and I know. The older generations slurp because they were brought up that its ok to do so. I personally don't do it because its rude in the West and in the East. You don't want people to stare at you or make a fool of yourself slurping

                              1. re: Iamvivian

                                If people stare at you...isn't that being rude of them?

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  Well, you're the one slurping. That's rude so people start wondering who's the one making all the ruckus at a restaurant. Can't blame people for staring if you're the one making all the noise eating.

                                2. re: Iamvivian

                                  Trust me: I only make a fool of myself when I want to. I don't make a fool of myself when I'm eating. Manners can be situational.

                            2. Ipse....
                              I'm US born and raised but have a Chinese daughter and have made many trips to East Asia.

                              I don't slurp noodles in the USA (nor does daughter) we both may do so in the Far East.

                              Why? The noodles served in the US tend to be much shorter (and often wider) than the noodles in China, Japan, etc.

                              If one encounters a long noodle in the USA, it's easy to cut it using the side of your metal soupspoon against the side of the bowl. It is very difficult to try to cut a noodle to length using a Chinese porcelain soup spoon.

                              1. I have been told slurping Japanese noodles is the only way to truly appreciate the flavor of the broth. Much like olive oil tasting where you slurp to coat the entire mouth and to include oxygen, the same is done with noodles.

                                udon and soba broths can have a very delicate taste and this helps to taste it correctly.

                                As I understand it, an added benefit is that you can eat much hotter noodles as well and they cool down faster as you slurp.


                                As is mentioned there you eat noodles in a noodle restaurant, not at a fancy place, so everyone is slurping together. It's not at all rude in the slightest, how could it be if it's the cultural norm?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: TeRReT

                                  Also, we are talking broth based noodles only, at Italian restaurants in Japan you won't see the same slurping.

                                  1. Ha, reminded me of this scene:


                                    It is what it is. Different strokes for different folks.

                                    1. Growing up as a Navy kid at duty stations in communities with heavy Asian populations, I was always taught it was proper to slurp when eating at a "real" noodle house. Unless someone convinced me that tradition had changed since I was a kid, I would still slurp my noodles.

                                      1. I think it's quite liberating to slurp noodles. It's way harder and slower to eat 'em while suppressing the slurp sounds !

                                        1. I am Korean but never heard slurping is a good etiquette...in fact, the opposite. My grandparents used to tell their grandchildren, one should not make noise when eating.
                                          But then we use spoon and chopsticks together.

                                          2 Replies
                                            1. re: Monica

                                              While we (Chinese) don't intentionally slurp loud when eating noodles, it's not a taboo to slurp neither. But if you're doing it several decibels more than those around you, then maybe it's better to tone it down a bit :-)

                                            2. Can only answer that question for Japan:

                                              If you are eating in a cheaper ramen/udon etc. restaurant you are supposed to slurp, mostly because the soup is meant to be eaten really hot and the slurping cools it down. Not to slurp is not necessarily "unfriendly" or anything. It probably feels slightly odd to some people if they paid attention but not slurping does not necesarily break some ettiquette or offends the cook or anything like that.

                                              In a more upscale restaurant, for example Kaiseki or French you would not slurp. Mostly because here there is no good reason to slurp as there won't be super-hot soups.

                                              1. Another reason why I don't slurp, it splashes broth everywhere!

                                                1. I'd like to make a distinction. Slurping can be incidental, but it really shouldn't be intentional. If you're working to *accentuate* the slurp - in other words, slurping for slurping's sake - that, IMO, is rude, sorta like faking an orgasm. But if the slurping is just happening while you're eating noodles, that's not rude.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                    1. re: E Eto

                                                      Hilarious !

                                                      I'd like to see Jon Stewart eat a bowl [grin]

                                                      1. re: LotusRapper

                                                        I used to see older Chinese slurp and also spit out bones onto the (plastic) tablecloths.
                                                        I don't see many older Chinese anymore. I think they sort of 'withdrew' from places where young Chinese go to eat.