Art

PSA: This is How You Should Be Eating Ramen

"First, observe the whole bowl." That is the first step on how to eat ramen by Juzo Itami's movie Tampopo.

This is from the movie Tampopo (which when translated means “dandelion”)

Student of ramen eating: [voiceover] One fine day… I went out with an old man. He’s studied noodles for 40 years. He was showing me the right way to eat them.
Student of ramen eating: Master… soup first or noodles first?
Old gentleman: First, observe the whole bowl.
Student of ramen eating: Yes, sir.
Old gentleman: Appreciate its gestalt. Savor the aromas. Jewels of fat glittering on the surface. Shinachiku roots shining. Seaweed slowly sinking. Spring onions floating. Concentrate on the three pork slices. They play the key role, but stay modestly hidden. First caress the surface with the chopstick tips.
Student of ramen eating: What for?
Old gentleman: To express affection.
Student of ramen eating: I see.
Old gentleman: Then poke the pork.
Student of ramen eating: Eat the pork first?
Old gentleman: No. Just touch it. Caress it with the chopstick tips. Gently pick it up and dip it into the soup on the right of the bowl. What’s important here is to apologize to the pork by saying “see you soon.” Finally, start eating-the noodles first. Oh, at this time, while slurping the noodles, look at the pork.
Student of ramen eating: Yes.
Old gentleman: Eye it affectionately.
Student of ramen eating: [voiceover] The old man bit some shinachiku root and chewed it awhile. Then he took some noodles. Still chewing noodles, he took some more shinachiku. Then he sipped some soup. Three times. He sat up, sighed, picked up one slice of pork-as if making a major decision in life-and lightly tapped it on the side of the bowl.
Student of ramen eating: What for?
Old gentleman: To drain it. That’s all.

The above should be followed to a tee, but my only note is that if you don’t express sincere affection, the ramen will know, and you probably won’t enjoy it because the ramen won’t be into you either.

That’s a very young Ken Watanabe on the left, and he plays a truck driver/sidekick named Gun.

About That Ramen Movie

If you love ramen like I do, then you’ve most likely heard of the movie Tampopo which means “dandelion.” The movie is a Japanese film directed by Juzo Itami which came out in 1985. The same decade as Top Gun except in 1986 (if you’re so young that you don’t know what Top Gun is, it’s about an American fighter pilot (Tom Cruise) and those evil Russians… yea I know, Russians? Now you think if I meant to say North Korea *SMH*, you young pups).

Dandelion is the name of the shopkeeper in the movie who runs a ramen-ya which is where she meets two truck drivers. During their visit, they let her know how bad her ramen is which leads to her working to improve her ramen game  – I’ve been there with bad ramen which is why I probably enjoy this movie so much, but I also like to picture myself as a ramen-ya operator. Unfortunately, that’s only something I dream about doing by watching this film over and over.

Since you may not have seen it already, I won’t say anything more about it. Other than that if you love to eat or love ramen, you got to see this movie because it is hilariously funny. There’s not only the main narrative but interspersed throughout the film it is filled with several satirical vignettes (funny short stories) about food in general: people who like to poke at produce to the erotic use of food. One of my favorite scenes is below:

Watch the Full Movie

I actually have the DVD from a while back, but you can watch for free online here or buy the DVD:

Slurp Away

Whether you agree with the old man to observe your bowl of ramen or not, just promise me this: When you’re charged with the task of eating your ramen, listen to the two truck drivers. Show your ramen the love it deserves and don’t rely on a Bon Appetit to tell you what’s up with Japanese food (Japanese food and culture are not a trend, #ramen4life).

3 comments

  1. Ohhh my gosh! I totally forgot all about this scene! I watched Tampopo some years back for a university Japanese film course. There were so many moments in it that evoked such cringing and strong reactions from the students that I must’ve forgotten about one of the best parts…the ramen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. haha, what a old style Japanese movie it is! I used to watch Tanpopo when I was child. No other movies so showing how to eat nuddle as Tanpopo in Japan, I think. ラーメン(nuddle) is the most famous food for Japanese, including me, so please try various type of it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Living in Hokkaido where my favorite ramen place is Ramen Tetsuya where there delicious buttery and slightly spicy Miso Ramen with Genghis khan lamb slices and inhouse made yakisoba noodles are worth the flight there alone!

    Tampopo as I knew it was the first Japanese ramen movie I had seen living there.
    It was so offbeat, almost ludicrous, I was like a dear in the headlights, initially almost embarrassed to be watching the not so Japanese mannerisms of a Japanese trucker driver in a cowboy hat. I thought other than the gratuitous fist fights that happened throughout the movie while the poor ramen shop owner struggled to keep her business from going under as she toiled the long hours of perfecting her ramen broth without luck until… you guessed it!!…the cowboy truck driver came to save the day with his heightened olfactories and broth making recipe.

    My point of this diatribe is I fell in love with the passion, suffering, sweat and tears of these main character. Along the way, I was awakened to my love for ramen, gaining a deep deep respect for ramen chefs that keep their recipes a well hidden secret, as if their life depended on it.
    Which if even today, you were to meet a master ramen maker, he would rather be tortured than share his recipe.

    What moved me in this movie most as in all cuisines was the love put into each bowl, the love of the patrons savoring each spoon and mouthful. The slurping of the near scalding liquid and noodles I have yet to totally master without burning my tongue.

    Tampopo, which by the way translates to the word dandelion, that I don’t think there was one dandelion in the whole movie that I remember, gave me a launching point in which I have continually found to bring me farther into love with all things Japanese.

    I don’t know where outside of Japan you can find this movie, but if you do, you will be rewarded with the wonderment I have been blessed with, in the stories and people and AMAZING food prepared by the most humble, hard-working people and sincere people proud to do only one thing, but an amazing one thing.

    Like

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