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Is it ever okay to pick up your soup bowl to drink the broth?

I made some home-made chicken soup and it was heartily enjoyed by the family. My 9 yr old was down to just broth and picked his bowl up to drink. I gently told him this was not good table manners and to use his spoon. As children are wont to do, he innocently asked why he couldn't drink from the bowl as this made more sense.

Other than my being taught that it was rude and uncivilized, I didn't have an answer. I told him something about noisy slurping but one can do that eating with a spoon.

Should I enforce the "use a spoon" rule or is it okay to drink the broth by lifting the bowl if it's just at home? Are there any restaurants where lifting the bowl would be okay, like a pho place?

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  1. It's just not considered good table manners to do it. Although I do all sorts of crazy things at home, it's probably better if you don't encourage it. The line between your home and, say, his best friend's home may become blurred and next thing you know, he's thinking it's ok, to do the bowl thing. there. My Grandmother used to allow us to pour the soup into a mug and then drink it, but never from the bowl.

    1. Definitely okay to do so at a Japanese restaurant. You are not given a spoon to drink your miso soup. If you get a larger dinner sized bowl of soup, then they will give you a spoon.

      7 Replies
      1. re: dimsumgirl

        IHmmmm... Interesting
        have never been served miso soup w/o a spoon of some sort, but if they don't offer a spoon then it may be culturally acceptable to "drink" it. A lot of Asian restaurants don't provide chop sticks either, but will do so if asked.

        1. re: Tay

          Handing out spoons with misoshiro is in deference to western customs. In Japan, one eats the little bits of tofu, seaweed, clam, etc. with o-hashi (chopsticks) and drinks the broth from the bowl.

        2. re: dimsumgirl

          Watching soup being eaten has never been more fun than in the movie "Tampopo."

          1. re: dimsumgirl

            Same in Chinese restaurants, as I assume also true of Vietnamese places.

            1. re: PeterL

              Yes it is considered perfectly proper in Chinese restaurants (and in China), and in fact it is expected. Chinese soup bowls have a ridged ring on the bottom of the bowl specifically so that you can pick it up while hot soup is inside.

              Contrast this with Korean food etiquette where it is *not* considered polite to pick up your soup or rice bowl-- and they make the bowls out of metal so they're too hot to pick up. Yes, in Korea, crossing this line of etiquette actually causes physical pain.

              Mr Taster
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              1. re: Mr Taster

                Really? The Korean restaurant I go to on B-way and 110th doesn't serve their soup with a spoon and everyone picks up the bowl to drink their soup. I am always in the minority there as most of the clientele are Korean.
                I was also going to say that at many Asian restaurants this is the norm, I even admit to doing so at home when no one is looking :-0.
                At an American restaurant or in front of company (or even my husband!) I would not pick up my bowl of soup since I was also taught that it is rude.

                1. re: SweetPea914

                  It's funny, before I visited Korea last year, I observed how every Korean restaurant I've been to in LA seems to buy from the same restaurant supply catalog (always flat metal chopsticks rather than the squared wooden or plastic ones) and metal bowls for soup and certain kinds of cold kimchee.

                  Also, soups are always served here with a long, skinny metal spoon instead of the shovel-like plastic Chinese spoon that Japanese/Vietnamese/Thai restaurants seem to have adopted too.

                  However when I got to Korea, I saw that that's just how things operate over there. Metal bowls, spoons, chopsticks and all.

                  Mr Taster
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          2. You are probably best off teaching your children not to pick up their soup bowls to finish off their broth as this is not commonly done. There are actually bowls with two handles, properly used for some soups, which are intended to be picked up just as your child wants to do. The only time these are used these days are at rather formal dinners. It's a pity because it makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?
            Here is what three of America's etiquette mavens advise on this issue:

            American expert Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette, 1952: The Handled Soup or Bouillon Cup. Soup or bouillon served in a handled cup or even in a small cup-size bowl (Oriental fashion) is drunk. If there are dumplings or decorative vegetables or other garnish floating on top, these may be lifted out first with the spoon before the soup is drunk. Noodles or other things which may be in the bottom of the cup are spooned up after the liquid has been drunk. How to hold cups. A handled cup is held with the index finger through the handle, the thumb just above it to support the grip, and the second finger below the handle for added security. The little finger should follow the curve of the other fingers and not be elevated affectedly. It is incorrect to cradle the cup in one's fingers if it has a handle. This is done only when the cup is of Oriental style without handles.

            Emily Post's Etiquette, 15th edition, by Elizabeth Post, 1992: Soup at luncheon is never served in soup plates, but in two-handled cups. It is eaten with a teaspoon or a bouillon spoon, or after it has cooled sufficiently, the cup may be picked up.

            Letitia Baldridge, Complete Guide to the New Manners for the 1990s: If you are drinking clear soup from a two handled cup, spoon any solids out of the cup first and eat them, then pick up the cup and drink the broth.

            3 Replies
            1. re: MakingSense

              Just to add another bit, there are 2 sizes of handled soup cups. Bullion is the smaller size and the cream soup cup is the larger. They also have appropriate spoons to go with them with a round bowl and of course the bullion spoon is the smaller of the 2. You rarely see bullion spoons available from the silver makers and bullion cups with their saucers (called stands as are the cream soup saucers) anymore. It might be fun if you are so inclined to collect them from antiques stores as some collect tea cups. Many of the china and silver producers still produce cream soup cups and stands along with cream soup spoons. If one is serving soup from a regular soup bowl then the appropriate spoon is what is called an oval soup spoon which is also used for dessert. The catch all name for that is place spoon. If one really wants to get fancy you can look for ice cream forks as an extra place setting piece for dessert.

              1. re: Candy

                You can always be counted on to come through with wonderful details on fine china and silver service pieces! Those cream soup spoons are often called "gumbo spoons" in Louisiana and many of us have them. I think I have at least three sets but I repress this.
                The different soup spoons you are talking about were once so common that they were even included in silverplate and stainless patterns and every bride got them when she was married. You just didn't set a proper table without them.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  Yeah, I know about trying to repress some of those urges. I am into my third set of sterling flatware. So some gamble and some collect silver and china. i guess we are all sick in some way! LOL

            2. It is perfectly acceptable in Chinese and Japanese culture. If you go to a Japanese noodle house, everyone picks up the bowl and drink the broth after finishing the noodles.

              1 Reply
              1. This thread has reminded me just how much time I've been spending in Asian reataurants. I've become used to dinking the soup from the bowl and lifting the rice bowl up near my mouth. Cultural differences can be difficult!