Japan is notorious for its weird food trends.
From homoerotic Pocky sticks to onions and avocados slathered in heaps of butter to artists turning bacon and bananas into wearable couture, there is clearly no shortage of young people pushing the boundaries of food.
The Land of the Rising Sun is also well-known for experimenting with mind-bending colour combinations like blue curry or Burger King's infamous charcoal-infused Kuro Shogun burger, complete with a jet black bun and black cheese.
With the lines between food, art, and science constantly blurring in Japan, it's not surprising that food writer and "mad scientist" Kurare would be inspired to apply these psychedelic principles to one of the country's most popular and beloved dishes—udon noodles.
Last week on Twitter, Kurare posted photos of neon pink udon noodles swimming in an equally neon green broth, topped with two slabs of blue tofu, as well as a similar purple and blue variation. The tweet, which describes "electrical noodles", went viral and garnered massive attention online.
We caught up with the self-proclaimed "mad scientist", who goes by the name Kurare.
"My major was biochemistry and I'm currently a science writer working on a book about the fusion of food and chemistry. I study food chemicals and food additives," he says, modestly. But Kurare is no ordinary food scientist.
"Kurare, of course, is not my real name, it's just pen name. The concepts behind my books and science writing is the 'mad scientist.' So, I cover my face [with a] fox-like mask and wear a wicked white lab coat."
The mad scientist says that the inspiration for this udon noodle dish was the game Splatoon. "The game uses many fluorescent colors, I love that game!" and when asked why he describes the noodles as "electrical", Kurare brought up another pop culture influence. "It looks like the Electrical Parade from Disneyland!"
And while Kurare is definitely inspired by pop culture, his method, and madness, are steeped in the sciences. "I think cooking is fundamentally science," he says. "The Maillard Effect is a perfect example of a chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars that creates deliciousness in meat." The mad scientist says that he used basic "fluorescence chemicals" like new coccine and riboflavin to colour the noodles, a technique he has employed with numerous other dishes. "I've already made fluorescent-coloured cream, curry, and Japanese sake."
Still, Kurare insists that his udon noodle creation actually tastes like the real thing. "It's normal Japanese traditional wheat noodle."
The colourful dish was prepared by Kurare in anticipation of its unveiling at the Unbelievable Science Festival which is taking place this weekend in Osaka, Japan. It's that sort of mad scientist fair which promises other wild food offerings like "purple curry" and "fried food pumped up with flavor steroids." Kurare says he is really looking forward to the festival because it's a chance to catch up with like-minded scientists. "A lot of my friends are also mad scientists and they will also be there doing funny experiments."
At the end of our conversation, I asked Kurare for his real name, he answered firmly: "Mad scientist does not tell, mystery is a good spice!"