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Ramen: How to eat it? What's with the spoon?

I love ramen. The kind from a restaurant, I mean, not the instant college-food kind
from a plastic package. Fortunately, living in San Francisco I have several really
great places to go get some.

So here's the problem. While I'm completely capable of handling a bowl in a way
that is satisfactory to me and never seems to draw derisory looks from the waitstaff
and other customers, a couple of times when eating with friends they've made little
comments. "That's an interesting way to do it." "Is that how your mom taught you."
With a vague air of snide that makes me stop and laugh off whatever I was about to
do.

I think my friends have seen Tampopo which I understand has ramen lessons in
it but I don't know because I haven't seen it.

Rather than explain how I eat it and have you all laugh at me too, I'll just ask.
I'm sitting with a bowl filled with porky goodness, noodles, maybe an egg, and
some other floaty things. I've got a pair of chopsticks and and a big spoon-like
device. There's a little tray of salt and pepper shakers and sometimes a little
tub of kim chee. Where do I go from here?

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  1. Japanese women (or those who were taught correctly) eat ramen a bit more delicately than men. Not knowing your gender, i'll go with the angle your male.

    Chopsticks of course, help to "shovel" the noodles to your mouth..Same with the chashu, bean-sprouts, bamboo shoots and other veggies. The Egg..Now THAT's a tricky one..If your good with your chopsticks, you can pick it up and eat it in one bite. If your like me, tho...You have had that little bugger slip out, splashing back into scalding hot broth and causing 3rd degree burns (ouch!) Therefore, I now pick it up with the large spoon, and eat it in 2 bites.

    Slurping noodles is okay, I just personally use the spoon a bit more, and "drape" the noodles into it, then slurp away. A bit more feminine way to do it.

    As for additives, I normally put a bit of white pepper, and La-Yu oil for flavor.

    1. Gads! The chopsicks in the right hand (if you're right handed) are used to raise the noodles and solid bits to your mouth, which (your mouth) should not be centimeters from the bowl (albeit oft observed). The left hand holds the spoon (a tablespoon or Chinese soup spoon in American lingo, not a "spoon-like device"). The idea is to consume the soup with the spoon in a slow tango with the chopsicks eating of the solids.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Even if you're LEFThanded, in some circles you should still hold the chopsticks in your right hand. Especially if you're sharing the table with my grandmother...'cause if you tried to pick 'em up in your left hand, she'd bust your knuckles in a New York Minute!

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Chopsicks- when you accidentally push them too far down your throat?

          Sorry, couldn't help myself. Spent the whole day at the Tucson gem show trying to communicate with a world of people- literally. I don't speak anything but a little Espanol, and there weren't many of those there among the sellers. A typo was too easy. Again, my apologies with a side of thanks

        2. The ramen lessons in Tampopo are so toungue in cheek you'd look like you had a tennis ball in your mouth. I've never once "caressed the pork to show appreciation," though there are some bowls which I've enjoyed enough to do so after-the-fact :). Here's what I do: like Sam, sticks in strong hand, spoon in off. Grab some a bite sized amount of noodles/bamboo/meat/whatever with your sticks and start chewing. 3/4 of the way through that bite, sip some soup. I tend to take big heaping bites of noodles, and smaller ones of whatever other ingredients there are. I slurp soup and noodles; this actually will help cool the food as you eat it, similar to blowing on it. A tip if you're worried about splashing while slurping your noodles is after you've got the first bit in your mouth, hold your sticks around the noodles just above the broth level. This keeps them moving upwards into your mouth instead of outwards to create a splash zone.

          I garnish with some garlic if I feel it's needed. Always try the soup before you throw condiments in.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MeAndroo

            The eating lessons in Tampopo are tongue-in-cheek...but there's truth to them. Specifically "eye the cha siu with affection" (i.e., you want to monitor the meat to noodle ratio to make sure you have meat at the end) and wanting to finish with a nice long sip of broth. An analogy is won ton/noodle soup...you never just eat all the won ton or noodles or spaghetti and meatballs.

            Any way, I agree with the shovel w/ chop sticks, follow with sips of broth with spoon and nibbles on goodies (cha siu, etc.) in between.

          2. Chuckles - THANK YOU for bringing up this topic! Ever since a really good ramen shop opened in our neighborhood, I've been wondering much the same thing. I even tried looking at threads here on CH about ramen, and googling other sites about ramen to see if there was anything about eating etiquette or instructions.

            I normally eat most of the solid items with the chopsticks, and broth (as well as that wily egg!) with the spoon. I see a lot of other diners at our local shop using both hands, but I find it really awkward to try to manipulate the spoon with my "off" hand (I'm a leftie, so I switch back and forth between using the chopsticks and the spoon, both left-handed.) Also, many diners load noodles into the spoon and eat them from that, which confuses me (I've tried it and I'm completely ham-handed at it (as noted above, I'm not good using spoon with my non-dominant hand), and I don't understand why one would eat noodles from the spoon when it's so much easier to manage them with chopsticks in the first place.)

            1. Chopsticks for all solids, including the egg. Use chopsticks to restrain wild noodles while sucking them in. If egg is too big the chopsticks can be used scissor like to cut it. I generally just stab one stick into the egg, stabilize with the second, and down in one bite.
              I follow the Korean style of slurping the noodles. When alone or informal pick up the bowl and down the soup. More formal use the spoon for the soup.
              If I tried the two handed method stuff would go everywhere.

              2 Replies
              1. re: hannaone

                I do this as well. but the spoon you and I use is the korean one and not the chinese one with the big bowl part. sometimes though I hold chopsticks and spoon in the same hand which is pretty rude (this is what I've heard). Or if I'm alone I will just pick up the bowl and drink the soup

                oh and kimchee you can eat by itself in between bites of soup, or you can put it in your soup. for example picking up noodles and kimchee with your chopsticks or you can even put some kimchee broth/sauce into your ramen - but I'm sure if you did that in front of japanese people they might be offended.

                1. re: bitsubeats

                  [...pretty rude (this is what I've heard)]
                  Yeah, in a formal setting or when dining with elders it is considered insulting to the elder.