Some call it pasta; some call it noodles. No matter what you call it, it still spells delicious! In America we don’t have really strict rules on eating noodles. If you don’t pick them up with your fingers, and you don’t slurp when you eat them, we’re pretty much accepting of any method of noodle consumption. Not so in some countries. There isn’t one correct way to eat noodles – one that’s accepted around the world – so if you’re a traveler you might want to have some knowledge of noodle etiquette in foreign countries. Eating noodles in an unacceptable way can not only make you seem unmannerly but you might even offend someone!
Although slurping is unattractive by American standards it’s perfectly acceptable in China, particularly when eating noodle soups. In fact, they see slurping as a way to cool the noodles as they eat. When eating noodle dishes chopsticks are used but the noodles are not twirled. The sticks are used to pick up several noodles at a time then they’re used to help the noodles into the mouth. It’s the norm to place the noodles in the mouth while they dangle past the chin. The sticks are then used to grab the noodles again, help them into the mouth, then repeat the process until all the noodles are in the mouth.
When eating noodle soup in China a different approach is taken. A spoon is held in one hand, chopsticks in the other. Take a spoonful of broth then grab some noodles with the chopsticks. Drop the noodles onto the spoon then consume. If the noodle soup contains long noodles practice the lift above-stated manner of helping the noodles into the mouth with the chopsticks. It’s also accepted to take a bite of noodles, then a slurp of soup. Slurping, in many areas of China, is also a compliment to the chef.
In Vietnam, much like China, the noodles in any soup dishes are eaten with a spoon and chopsticks. Other noodle dishes, not in liquids, are eaten with chopsticks alone. One etiquette issue concerning noodle-eating in Vietnam is the addition of a hot chile sauce called hoisin or sriracha. If the sauce is dumped into the soup without tasting it first this could offend the cook. The act would have the same effect as someone serving a luscious pot roast and you dumping ketchup all over it. It’s proper to first taste the soup then add condiments.
When visiting Japan noodles are eaten much like they are in China. It’s accepted to slurp but most cooks aren’t offended if you don’t. Loud slurping isn’t the norm but is accepted. In many countries, as in America, it’s seen a bad manners to pick up the bowl and drink the remaining broth. In Japan that’s exactly what you do. Although it’s not absolutely vital to drink the last of the broth it is not viewed as bad manners to lift the bowl and drink. However, the lifting of the bowl is done after most of the soup is consumed. It’s not accepted to drink the entire soup by lifting the bowl.
In Thailand noodle soups are eaten in much the same manner as Japan or China. Use a spoon and chopsticks at the same time and slurp if you want. Loud slurping is not the norm but noodle-eating is not seen as a time when you must be dainty. In most parts of that region it’s acceptable to drink the last of the broth from the bowl. Noodles which are not in a broth are eaten with a fork and spoon, twirling the noodles by placing the tines of the fork against the bowl of the spoon.
When eating spaghetti, linguini or similar dishes in Italy the fork is used to twist the noodles. It’s acceptable to use a spoon to help twist the pasta around the fork. This is done by scooping up a fork full of noodles then placing the tines of the fork against the bowl of the spoon. Holding the spoon in one hand, twist the fork with the other, until all the noodles have wrapped around the fork. This forms a small nest-like gathering of pasta that’s easy to eat in one bite. Dangling the noodles from the mouth and slurping them in is not acceptable. It’s not an absolute must, however, to use the spoon while gathering the pasta. Although much practiced in days gone by the spoon is often left alone to twist the noodles directly onto the fork from the plate or bowl.
In America noodle soup is generally eaten with a large spoon. It is acceptable to use a fork to retrieve long noodles from the soup. Slurping is never attractive but is accepted from small children. Noodles not in a broth are eaten with a fork. Twist the fork around in the bowl or on the plate to gather the noodles. Although a spoon can be used to help twist the noodles it’s rarely done in the States. In many countries cutting the noodles before scooping them up on a fork or spoon is simply not done. In America it’s not the norm but is perfectly acceptable.
How you eat in other countries can tell those locals a lot about you. Anytime you’re unsure about proper eating etiquette glance around the dining area and get a glimpse of how others are behaving as pertaining to food. You’ll do well if you follow their leads. Whether you’re eating at an associate’s house, or dining in a fine restaurant, etiquette is everything!