The best way to eat ramen: It should kind of hurt

Don’t hesitate to appreciate.
Don’t hesitate to appreciate.
Image: Courtesy Ivan Ramen/Daniel Krieger
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The next time you make a date to catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, don’t go to a ramen shop.

From its humble beginnings as fast food, the Japanese noodle-soup dish has become a global obsession and the subject of intense food nerdery. But somewhere along its journey, ramen lost its instruction manual.

Ivan Orkin, a Long Island-born chef who opened a successful ramen shop in Tokyo and then returned to New York to do the same in 2014, has touted the “slurp” as part of the “authentic” way of eating ramen. But equally required is haste.

As with many noodle-soup dishes—including Vietnam’s pho—ramen deteriorates quickly as the noodles absorb water, expand, and lose their toothsome consistency. Ramen should be eaten in the first ten minutes of when it’s made, and piping—even painfully—hot is best.

“All the effort I’ve spent in ten years learning how to make these noodles, they have about 10 minutes of life,” Orkin says in a video for Bon Appétit. He describes a typical male customer in Tokyo, who’d come in and drain a bowl in four minutes. “In New York, on the other hand, 20-40 minutes for a bowl of ramen. It’s a little bit heart-breaking,” he says.

Ramen is made with wheat-flour noodles, usually placed in a fatty pork and chicken broth, often with toppings of pork, green onion, bamboo, and a poached or soft-boiled egg. The ideal way to enjoy a freshly made bowl is within a 10-minute window of its preparation.

For those unaccustomed to properly vacuuming noodles, the ceaseless onslaught of carbs might hurt your stomach or cause discomfort at first. Still, don’t dilly dally. Don’t mix the ingredients around, wait for the noodles to cool down, or cut the noodles with your teeth and dump them back into the bowl. Receive your bowl, immediately pull some noodles free with your chopsticks, grab them with your teeth, and, basically, inhale the pile up into your mouth. Slurping helps cool the noodles and lets you appreciate the aroma. It also makes a childishly enjoyable sound. When you’re done eating, you can drink the broth, picking up the bowl and bringing it directly to your mouth, if you like.

This tactic may go against your instincts to eat slowly, count your bites, or be mindful about what’s going in your mouth. To partake, you have to resist the convenience of delivery or deli take-away. You must leave your desk and find a seat at ramen shop bar or table. Your reward is this piping hot bowl, made freshly for you, and the stressful joy of the noodle-inhale—all done without the need to socialize, and in under 30 minutes.

If you do decide to fly in the face of ideal noodlery by ordering a noodle-soup dish to go, at least insist that the components are packed separately.