Recently on a variety TV program here in Japan, there was a segment on eating habits of Japanese viewed from a foreigner's perspective. On a "gaijin" panel (with representatives from all the major continents), they all rallied on the question, why do Japanese make so much noise when eating noodles? The Japanese host asked them, "how do you eat Japanese noodles?" In a video demonstration, they were all presented with a bowl of ramen and they all ate it quietly, biting mouthfuls of noodles instead of slurping. This video was presented to random Japanese and "gaijin" on the streets of Tokyo, and of course, the responses were vastly different. The main Japanese comment was, "they don't eat it deliciously" or "it doesn't look delicious the way they eat it." So, maybe it's an emotional connection, was the first conclusion. Sound must convey deliciousness to the Japanese.
One "gaijin" responder mentioned, if someone would just tell me why I should slurp my noodles, I would do it. So back to the panel of gaijin, as they were asked to slurp their noodles, and interestingly, many of them were physically unable to, some coughing as they sucked some soup down their sinuses, or having a clump of noodles stuck in mid-slurp. So, maybe gaijin just aren't very practiced at slurping as it takes a certain skill.
Then the scientific expert was brought in to explain some things. First, "deliciousness" is conveyed by the sound of slurping, and further, slurping does in fact make the noodle taste better. In a graphic, the expert showed how wine connoisseurs gurgle wine, sucking air through their mouths to force air into the nasal passage, allowing the flavors to spread. The concept is the same with slurping noodles. The flavors of the noodles and soup are multiplied when slurping. The gaijin panel as well as the Japanese host and observers had their "aha" moment and the gaijins decided they would practice slurping.
So, the lesson is slurp away. Especially if you want to maximize the deliciousness.
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