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Another noodle slurping question

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A notable local chef recently opened a Japanese noodle house, complete with several research trips to japan and sourcing of a combination of authentic Japanese ingredients with local products for an inventive, fun twist. The place advertises themselves as being "slurpalicious," which I think is cute.

I have taken several people here. One is sort of a foodie but not anywhere near like me, she mostly just likes to eat at places that have good Veg selections as she is a Veg. The others are completely non-foodie. I had to explain to one co-diner what kale was. And quinoa. And adzuki beans, but I'm more forgiving about the last 2.

None of these people are slurping. I've been trying to LEARN how to slurp and this has been a good opportunity. As I get takeout from them pretty often, I'm doing better at it and enjoy it. I have gotten looks from them when slurping, like WTF. And NOBODY is picking up their bowl and drinking from it at the end, no one in the whole restaurant. I have tried sometimes to explain how slurping is polite in a noodle house or that it's ok to drink from the bowl but I just get the "uh huh, you're crazy" look.

What's your take on this. Do as is proper for the food, disregarding my narrow-minded co-diners and attempt to assimilate them into noodle culture? Or stop slurping and bowl-drinking and eat like a good 'Mericun, at least when I am with others.

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  1. Those rube Americans should be smoking cigs while they are slurping, just like in Japan.

    1. Here's my take on eating like "X' cultural within an American dining establishment. The rules may be one way within the particular region where the food hails from but the rules may differ in the area where the restaurant is.

      If the community where the restaurant is is located eats one way, that will likely be how those dining wish to eat the food - in this case not slurping or drinking from the bowl because that is how they were raised and they are still within the confines of the environment where they were raised (U.S.A.). While what you are doing may be acceptable, it might well be making your dining companions uncomfortable and might be something that you choose not to do in front of them if that is the case.

      I can loosen up some when I am out of the country and do as the Romans do, but, within the US I am very timid at times to eat in certain ways because of the attention it might bring me. If I were in Japan I wouldn't bat an eye, but, here is somehow still feels rude when others do it around me. I never really know what to do sometimes!

      1. I'd be slurpin' to beat the band! Let 'em stare!

        1. Thanks for the answers so far. I still don't know what the right thing is to do. Hmm. Need more CH answers!

          1. Personally, I'm for slurping. However, to be sensitive to your co-diners...there's a chance that the slurping is offensive to them. Like in other cultures where burping shows your contentment after a meal...but here it shows your lack of manners.
            If you like your co-diners/friends, and it seems to reaaallly bother them, maybe keep the slurping to a minimum when eating with them.

            3 Replies
            1. re: BeeZee

              Yeah, I don't want to offend anyone, and I'm not sure that I'm offending, I just got some surprised looks.

              1. re: rockandroller1

                Those who looked surprised probably thought you were offending them.

              2. re: BeeZee

                That's an interesting question, and one that leads my mind to the broader question of when we do (and don't) adapt to foreign eating customs. In fact I think I'll start a new thread on that so as not to hijack this one.

              3. Stop the slurping!! Let Japanese people slurp in Japanese restaurants....i can't believe you are 'learning' to slurp purposely.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Monica

                  How is that any different than learning to eat with chopsticks? Which I can now serviceably do because I practiced until I could, so that when eating in an asian place that offers them, I can do like everyone else does. Or similar analogies.

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    I started a thread on how that differs - among other foreign eating customs - here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/814007

                    1. re: rockandroller1

                      because eating with chopsticks doesn't bother anyone near you.

                      1. re: rockandroller1

                        <<How is that any different than learning to eat with chopsticks?>>

                        Eating with chopsticks doesn't make a slurping sound.

                      2. re: Monica

                        Ahem, Monica slurping adds to the meal, same way that using many thin slices on a sandwich tastes better than a slab. It is the adding air that ups the taste. Plus I have seen people suck up spaghetti (making sauce fly) many times here, with no one doing a notice.
                        As to answer rockandroller1's question, I choose to engage people in conversation (and many times ask questions of others ) to explain why the food is eaten that way, or prepared/presented in a certain way. Way more often than not, it ends up being a good conversation and increases the fun of dining in a public place. But I am assuming YMMV.

                        1. re: Quine

                          This is kind of my take on the whole thing too.

                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            I eat out because it is the social experience. Plus as being terminally curious, it let's me explore interesting things. It strikes up great conversations and well makes everything taste better. But I am weird like that I enjoy people and love to share. My Mom does not have access to the internet (she won't use if she did anyway) so often when we are having lunch out (several times a week) I will show her cute/funny animal YouTube sorta things. Mind you we keep the volume down. But if a server or someone is wondering why we are laughing, I will share it with them as well. It's fun and I have established a great rapport with folks this way. My world is not so small that I can't bring more happiness and great folks into it.

                      3. If you have to ask.......................

                        1. I say slurp away. You're doing the right thing, and if your friends are offended, so be it.

                          1. I would, especially if I were dining by myself, so long as I do it in the expected gentle slurp and NOT make a big, ostentatious and exaggerated show of it. I doubt that most polite folks in Japan would slurp their noodles sounding (and looking) like an animal or their worst idea of an insufferable lout. In company, I would expect that I wpuld moderate it if my companions looked really uncomfortable or distressed; but if they were only mildly surprised I'd go for it (perhaps toning it down a bit) and explain to them - as you suggested - what it was all about.

                            No lifting-of-bowl to drink the soup seen by you? Hmm, I have - and have done so myself, but not always. It depends on the situation.

                            When I eat in Chinese restaurants I frequently do the "rice bowl brought up to mouth" routine, using the chopsticks in the traditional manner to push rice into my mouth, with or without bits of the "soong" (the meat/veg dishes used to 'accompany' = "soong" the rice). I do it sometimes when I am with dining companions too.

                            Of course, the above customs DO depend on the country - so one DOES need to be aware of the practice in the country of origin of the cuisine one is eating too. For example, that "lifting of one's rice bowl" to the mouth is fine - and common - in China and Japan, but verboten in Korea - where the bowl should never leave the table surface and the rice is eaten with spoons brought to one's mouth.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: huiray

                              Yes and in Vietnamese Pho houses you will see many people with chopsticks in one hand and spoon in the other using both at the same time.

                              Now my Mom, a master knitter can no way no how use chop sticks. I, however, carry my own and use them many times in non-Asian places. And I do very much look the Polish/Czech mix that I am. :-)

                              1. re: Quine

                                In fact, spoon+chopsticks as you describe is the standard way to eat soupy noodles, not just pho, of any sort in any of the East or SE Asian cultures where chopsticks is the usual eating utensil.

                                1. re: huiray

                                  I have not seen that method in Japanese places, but there is no local or even near local Japanese noodle house here in South Coastal NJ.

                                  But it is the most effective.

                                  1. re: Quine

                                    True, in Japanese cuisine/restaurants one may or may not be provided with a spoon to drink soup or to eat noodles in soup - in which case one either asks for one or brings the bowl to one's mouth to drink the soup. (It's also normal to hold the bowl with one hand at breast level when in the process of eating rice or drinking soup, as you know)

                                  2. re: huiray

                                    Yes, and my mom also always considered the chopsticks and spoon method the most "polite" method too.

                                2. re: huiray

                                  On Kimchi Chronicles they were lifting the bowls to drink the broth (esp. for cold buckwheat noodle dishes). No rice in this last episode. Noodles where, preferably, coiled around the chop sticks, and eaten long. Long noodles symbolize long life. However, Korean shops do offer to cut noodles with scissors.

                                  Some Korean dining rules:
                                  http://www.lifeinkorea.com/Food/f-man...

                                  This does say, use the spoon for rice. Korean chopsticks are metal, with narrow tips; making it harder to eat rice with them.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    Hmm, it also says to use the spoon for liquid foods such as soup or stews, not JUST rice. (1st rule, at top) Then, the 3rd rule says that you are not to hold the rice bowl or soup bowl in your hand during the meal. These rules would seem to interdict the behavior of those folks on "Kimchi Chronicles", one might think? (I have never seen that show) Unless that cold noodle dish they were eating was naengmyeon; was it? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chopstic... ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naengmyeon) What you also said appeared to imply there were other kinds of soups they were doing it with - were they "normal" (Korean) soups when their raising the bowl would seem to be disallowed according to the rules?

                                    1. re: huiray

                                      I believe it was naengmyeon. I can think of some practical reasons for making the distinction. One is served cold, in an insulate steel bowl. There are other soups that are served in heated bowls. Lifting a hot stone bowl to your lips is both impractical and dangerous. Etiquette distinctions may be an overlay on those practical distinctions.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Well, in Chinese and Japanese cuisine lifting a warm-to-hot (not scaldingly hot) stone or porcelain bowl to one's lips is a normal and easily done technique, so long as the bowl (with contents) is not an oversized or overly heavy one. I do it all the time. Just hold the bowl by grasping it with your thumb on the rim and the other fingers on the foot of the bowl, NOT by clasping the bowl with the entire hand with palm-on-bowl or palm-cradling-bowl with palm in direct contact with the bowl.

                                3. I grew up a Navy kid living on bases in communities with heavy Asian populations and influence (Hawaii, San Fran Bay area, etc) so I have slurped and drank my entire life. I don't care who stares.