Many may have heard of the Japanese tendency to slurp their (usually brothed) noodles, whether it be Soba, Udon or Ramen.
Well, for the most part it's true and to the point that even I can do a double take sometimes during my occasional trips back to Japan when I see some of the most flawlessly attired and reserved looking O.L.s (or office ladies) slurping up some of the fiercest sounding notes akin to throttle blips of performance carbureted engines. **SlluroarP - SlorP...** It's quite an awesome sight. :)
While my practice is on the conservative side compared, I do do it, probably the loudest when having cold Zaru Soba. This is the type of soba you dip the rinsed cold noodles into a more concentrated mentsuyu dipping sauce. (Examples of soba slurping on YouTube from tame, to louder..)
But what inspired me to write this post is to help explain that the practice is done because it actually makes these meals taste better (and not just to be annoying, ha). In the case of Zaru Soba, there are wonderful aromatics trapped within this mentsuyu that can only be unlocked by a nice Venturi Effect inducing robust slurp. And the same goes for good Udon and Ramen.
With a skilfully slurped mouthful (it does take practice to do it properly), the wonderful atomized mentsuyu reveals the subtle fragrances of dried bonito katsuobushi and seaweed kombu as it pleasantly exits through your nostrils. Depending on the condiments you used, also of wasabi, nori and scallions, not to forget the buckwheat from the soba. You can imagine it is especially a great experience when the mentsuyu is of good quality (though ones made from scratch can be hard to find in casual eateries).
I've been on a crazy (Ten) Zaru Soba bender recently. Teri Cafe's was not a bad value for $7.75 with six pieces of Tempura, but the mentsuyu wasn't the best (a little on the salty side and low in wa-fu dashi flavor). Kayaba's in Mitsuwa SD the photo is extremely old and I honestly can't remember much but probably was in the ball park of Teri Cafe - an unflattering inexpensive off the shelf example. Nowadays there are pretty decent bottled mentsuyu out there so it doesn't always have to be made from scratch, though preferred. Good mentsuyu is delicious enough that it tempts me to want to almost sip it all by itself.
Izakaya Sakura's was pretty good. Not too salty, a little sweet and with nice flavors of dashi. As a lunch set may have been a bit on the high side (it's not on the lunch menu but can be ordered). I like the place though because they'd always come through with my special requests. Like having with Tororo grated mountain yam this day. Otherwise for the most part I've been having at home which is the most economical if I weren't so busy.
Have it your way but try slurping your soba/udon/ramen noodles next time and aside from the potential stares, let me know what you think! ;)
The hilarious Spaghetti scene from Tampopo...
(Hope I tweaked some of the artwork I found online enough so that people won't care I borrowed...)