The last thing you want on a towering bowl of ramen is an egg that smells like farts.
Sadly, this familiar and very unappetizing smell is a natural byproduct of cooking eggs. That's because in order to get a silky egg white and runny yolk nestled atop your tonkatsu ramen, you need to heat it up first, obviously.
And while the application of heat to an egg will minimize the risk of salmonella and make the egg white more palatable, it can also make that little egg smell like the emission of gas from the human digestive system. Luckily, a team of scientists from Japan, presumably concerned about the state of their ramen garnishes, isolated the problem and figured out a way to make the dreaded egg-fart smell a thing of the past.
Every chicken egg contains ovalbumin, a protein which is heavy in an amino acid called cysteine, which itself contains sulfur. When we cook eggs, these sulfur atoms convert chemically to hydrogen sulfide, a gas that smells like that other kind of gas. In fact, it would seem that the human nose may be more sensitive to hydrogen sulfide smells than sharks are to blood in water, which would explain why we react so strongly to rotten eggs and bodily gasses.
That's where this groundbreaking science on eggs smells comes in. In an article entitled "Anodic Oxidative Modification of Egg White for Heat Treatment," Japanese researchers found that treating an egg with an electric current will rid it of any noxious odor. "With sufficient application of electricity, almost no hydrogen sulfide was produced," the researchers wrote, adding that their method of egg prep "exhibited unique properties, such as a lower gelation temperature and a softened texture."
In other words, the benefits of this "cooking" method go beyond smell, and we may one day see a celebrity chef zapping eggs with electricity for a heady segment on Mind of a Chef about the zealous pursuit of the perfectly soft egg white.
Japanese preoccupation with the smell of eggs has led to other modern wonders, like an egg that smells like yuzu citrus fruit, created by feeding chickens yuzu peel, kale, non-GMO corn, and sesame seeds.
Who knows what the ramen and breakfast sandwiches of the future will smell and taste like?
This first appeared on MUNCHIES in September 2016.