When it was posted on the subreddit DiWHY, a roundup of the most mind-boggling DIY "hacks," a video of a person using dried ramen noodles to fill a hole in a sink obviously grabbed the internet's attention. In it, there's a sink with a chunk missing; a pair of hands quickly stuffs the hole with a hunk of dried ramen noodles (vegetable packet included) and drops of liquid from squirt bottles. After 49 seconds of time-lapsed filling, sanding, and painting, the sink looks as though nothing ever happened.
The video got close to 40 thousand upvotes on Reddit, and a high-profile retweet from Chrissy Teigen no doubt helped propel it to 12 million views on Twitter. Those shares might have given it international attention, but as the South China Morning Post has reported, the video originated on Douyin, the Chinese version of Tik Tok. It was uploaded by the user Xiubandrng, whose shtick appears to be exactly this: Another video attributed to them shows ramen filling a cut on a wooden table.
On first glance, the sink video is so convincing that you might suddenly worry: what if your bathroom appliances are, in fact, pieced together from packages of Shin Ramyun, its spicy flavor packet mixed with superglue and covered in paint? But as the SCMP points out, some people are skeptical of the video's authenticity.
To some, it seems too good to be true. The use of jump cuts is questionable, concealing that perhaps the videos are actually backwards, they suggest, or it might be partially ramen, but with other fillers added. "You can see this because the texture goes from noodle to closed cell foam," wrote a Redditor called RobotSlaps. In a message to MUNCHIES, RobotSlaps wrote, "I'm about 90% sure we're not getting the full story of the process that's happening and about 70% sure that material isn't just ramen and glue."
That message was paired with step-by-step annotations pointing out the filler's high density, and suggesting that the feathering as it dries looks like wood putty. "The alternative possibility is we're looking at foam with hydrated ramen stuck to it. It's not a smoking gun, just a seed of maybe it's not what it looks like," reads one caption.
However, there might be reason to believe that the ramen hack is actually be possible. To a Redditor who goes by PineappleDelivery—who claims to have worked as a scenic designer at Universal Studios and on film sets, but declined to be identified by name—there's no skepticism that the videos are real. When working under an art director, small changes are often necessary, he told MUNCHIES in a message, "Instead of completely redoing the piece, it's common to simply take a chunk out and fill it with something new, then sculpt it." While some designers might use Bondo, a type of filler, a mixture of superglue and starch-based filler material can work for small corrections.
"The artist will first put a base/foundation of filler material. This can be almost anything really—flour, starch, sand, noodles apparently—but certain materials like starch and (more commonly) baking soda cure the fastest, almost instantly," he wrote. "The artist will then pour superglue over the filler, wait for it to cure (giving off fumes as it does, visible in the videos), add more layers, more super glue, and so on. Eventually enough material has been added to start sculpting and shaving away material until the desired shape is achieved."
Judging by videos on YouTube, that technique is common: here, for example, is a video of someone using baking soda and superglue to fix the broken nut on a guitar, and in another, superglue and baby powder are mixed to make changes on resin castings.
In his work, PineappleDelivery told MUNCHIES, he's used superglue and baking soda, though he says he's heard of people using flour or starch—which is why the ramen might actually work. "People generally just use what they have lying around. I suppose if instant ramen is in abundant supply, you use that!"
This article originally appeared on VICE US.