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Seasoned with Science: The electrified chopsticks that replicate saltiness

Food Cultures
May 6
/
2 mins

Any seasoned chef will tell you, the difference between an average dish and a delicious one is a pinch of salt. The only problem is, many of us can get a little shaker happy when it comes to adding it to our food.

This is particularly true of Japan, where the common use of ingredients such as Miso and Soy have led to a widespread issue of high blood pressure - a direct result of excessive salt intake.

On average, the population of Japan eats around twice their daily recommended amount of sodium, but oversalting could soon be a thing of the past given the recent news of an invention funded by the Kirin corporation (a business best known for selling beer). After years of research, they have discovered a method of simulating the flavour of salt - but how do they do it you ask?

Chopsticks.

They may be some of the oldest eating utensils on the planet, with many countries in the Far East using them as their predominant method of dining. But the latest product to come out of the Kirin company labs are far from ordinary chopsticks.

They work by feeding a low level electrical current through the sticks while you eat. This current then transmits sodium ions (think sodium chloride) from your food onto your tongue. No added salt is required, and the preliminary tests suggest people can really taste the difference.

Homei Miyashita, the mad professor behind this venture states ‘You can feel the salty effect when you put the food in your mouth using the chopstick device, or you can also feel the salty taste when you press the chopstick device itself against your tongue’. 

To use the device, all you need to do is strap on the charging wristband, and start eating, and the test subjects that used them claimed that the miso soup and daikon radishes they were fed tasted 1 and a half times saltier than they actually were. This news has already created a demand rush in Japan, as well as abroad.

These salty sticks will be hitting the Japanese market in late 2023, but Miyashita doesn’t want to stop there. His next venture is into the world of lickable television screens to create a ‘multisensory experience for viewers’, and this begs the question, could augmented reality become part of cuisine?

As the world of fine dining starts to embrace technology in the kitchen, with Michelin star restaurants regularly using sous vide machines, steam convection ovens and espuma guns - will we start seeing technology making its way into our bodies? Could the next culinary frontier bypass our mouth entirely?

Augmented reality is already a normal part of every day life for two of our senses - sight and sound - so how would you feel adding taste to the list.

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