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The miso ramen at Ren’s Ramen in Bethesda
Ramen may be a Chinese import, but Japan has made the noodle all its own. The pleasures of eating true ramen soup are almost too many to catalog: the salty savory broth, the richness of the partially cooked yolk (should you add the seasoned, soft-boiled nugget), the eggy chew of the noodle, the roasted meatiness of the pork, the essential crunch of the sprouts. And that doesn’t even include the butter candy known as pork belly, for those who select the fatty add-on.
Then there’s the sheer pleasure of sucking down the noodles themselves. It’s one of the few times that you get to loudly and enthusiastically slurp at the table. Consider this passage from Shizuo Tsuji’s book Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art:
Like sipping piping hot Japanese soup, to really enjoy noodles, one must imbibe them fast with a cooling intake of breath. To do this involves a decided sucking sound, which easily deteriorates into a slurp. But no one minds in Japan, since the whole point of noodles is to eat them fast while they are very hot. Noodles are just too hot to eat in puckered silence, so you have to open your mouth a bit wider than necessary to accommodate the slippery pasta and suck in with a fair amount of gusto. For a Westerner, picking up the knack of noodle-eating may depend on how quickly he or she can abandon the taboo on noise in eating. I know how hard it is for those trained to eat noiselessly. My own daughter finds it almost impossible to eat noodles properly, having been trained at an English boarding school. But eating noodles too quietly can be mistaken in Japan for a lack of enjoyment of this food.