The answer may mildly shock you.

We recently reported on the nearing launch of a bowl and spoon that uses a mild electrical current to make food taste saltier without adding any salt. When the news hit the Internet in Japan, it reminded people of a little theory that went viral earlier this year.

This theory states that if you were to eat ramen out of a metal container while sitting in a bathtub full of water, it will taste “bad.” I suppose the “bad” part is a matter of opinion, but it at the very least suggests a substantial change in flavor will take place. It was pretty intriguing, so I set out to see if it was true.

First I got a bag of the classic Chicken Ramen from Nissin — I wanted to get something with a very standard taste so it was easier to detect any abnormalities, and getting a Cup Noodle seemed like a waste since I’d have to move it to a pot anyway.

After whipping up a pot of chicken ramen and pouring a bath I got ready for some relaxing science. My first breakthrough came in the discovery that a pot of Chicken Ramen floats!

That certainly made for a more relaxing meal, but the big question was the taste. To do this properly according to the Internet theory, I had to eat from the pot while it was partially submerged in water and eat the noodles while they were still touching the other noodles.

I took a first bite and it was immediately clear it tasted quite different. To some people this might be considered a strange or unpleasant taste, but for me it was an all too familiar one.

Kids have all kinds of different hobbies and interests. Some like baseball while others practice the piano, but for me licking 9-volt batteries was THE thing to do in my more formative years, and thanks to this experience I can tell you definitively that eating ramen out of a metal pot in the bathtub tastes just like 9-volt batteries.

▼ Ah, my mouth is watering just looking at one…

Image: Wikipedia/Cjp24

So, what’s going on here?

The taste one experiences while licking a 9-volt battery is caused by the water on your tongue undergoing electrolysis. Electrolysis is the process where an electric current creates a chemical reaction, in this case breaking up the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The resulting hydrogen ions have a sharply sour taste to them which causes the rather powerful taste that comes from licking the battery.

The same basic thing is happening while eating ramen this way. When the noodles touch your tongue a circuit is created and the sour taste is generated through electrolysis. Of course, since there’s no external power supply, the current flowing through this circuit is extremely weak, but it’s enough to produce the ions needed for your tongue to detect the taste.

▼ I broke down all the key scientific parts in this easy-to-understand diagram

To verify this, once I removed the pot from the water the sour taste went away and I was right back to eating normal-tasting Chicken Ramen. 

▼ Just lifting the pot a millimeter will break the circuit and return the original flavor to the ramen

Purely in the name of science, I also brought a beer in the bath with me. It would seem that if I drank it through the straw while the can was in the water, the same effect would be generated. However, it tasted exactly the same in the water and outside of it.

I’m not sure why the ramen worked but the beer didn’t. Perhaps the noodles were more conductive or possibly the beer was moving past my tongue too fast for it to properly detect the ions.

▼ Either way, I ain’t complaining. I got everything I need right here.

Also, this isn’t exactly the same process that occurs when using the utensils developed by Kirin Holdings. Those items use electricity to stimulate the salty ions present inside the food, while this ramen trick appears to be stimulating your own saliva more than the food itself, which is why you get more of a sour taste than a salty one.

Nevertheless, I can conclude without a doubt that eating ramen out of a metal pot while sitting in the bathtub definitely changes the taste. I’m not sure I would say it tastes bad, but it’s not especially good either. But with 9-volt batteries becoming increasingly rare these days, it’s a nice touch of nostalgia and a fun science experiment to do on a rainy day.

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