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I am a university student about to enter his second year. At my school, only freshman are given (relatively cheap) access to the Dining Commons, and I recall, near the end of the year, a nutrition specialist held a table inside with recommendations to students about convenient ways to cook when thrown to the lions den their sophomore year. She said something about brown rice or brown noodles, cooked with my choice source of protein as well as vegetables, as a default meal when time is scarce during the work week. I thought it sounded like an enterprising idea, but my family and I are baffled at its execution.

What sort of rice and noodles was she referring to?

Also, what sort of meat and vegetables can I put into it?

Finally, how do I cook this?

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3 Answers

Well, brown rice is brown rice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_rice

That's not a particularly fast-cooking meal, though; brown rice can take up to 50min to cook fully. It is very nutritious, though.

I have no idea what your anonymous tipster meant by "brown noodles". I would help if you actually quoted her or gave us a name.

The modernist food periodical Lucky Peach (http://www.mcsweeneys.net/luckypeach) included a long article on how to spruce up instant ramen; maybe you should check it out.

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Sorry, I really don't have any more relevant information. It wasn't official; just some woman with fliers giving nutrition advice. I don't remember much. I think the idea behind the whole thing is sort of an Asian-inspired balanced meal. But I guess there's no such thing as brown noodles? Haha, it's all really bizarre. Well, thanks for trying. –  user7179 Aug 25 '11 at 5:04
    
Well, if what you have in mind is health, then I'd recommend soba noodles with yam, which you can get at Asian food stores. Since these noodles have both whole buckwheat and Japanese yam in them, they're a lot more nutritious than instant ramen or pasta. In general, if you are looking for very healthful food, plain & simple Chinese or Japanese foods are hard to beat. They get boring pretty quick too, though. For non-Asian pasta, whole wheat noodles work well with a few recipes but not for most. –  FuzzyChef Aug 26 '11 at 5:11
    
Thanks! I still have no clue what the nutritionist was referring to exactly, but this answers my question and others I was pondering. :) –  user7179 Aug 29 '11 at 17:34
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As brown rice has already been explained. I'm guessing whole wheat noodles to be the 'brown' noodles.

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My thought as well. I personally can't stand the stuff. Eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, and eat the regular noodles. –  Satanicpuppy Aug 25 '11 at 13:51
    
@Satanicpuppy: Yeah, whole wheat noodles don't sound particularly appetizing, now that I think about it. I will take that into consideration... –  user7179 Aug 25 '11 at 15:27
    
Never ate the stuff, never will(?) –  BaffledCook Aug 25 '11 at 18:42
    
Hey, I didn't say I will never eat it; I just said I'll take his advice into consideration. –  user7179 Aug 25 '11 at 22:21
    
@user7179, I was making a note to myself :) Should have been a mental note, of course –  BaffledCook Aug 26 '11 at 7:37
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No noodles are actually called "brown noodles" but the only noodles I'm aware of that are brownish in colour are either wheat or buckwheat.

Given the suggestion to cook it with a "protein source", and given that this is meant to be a quick and easy meal, I'm sure that the idea was to cook some dried noodles briefly in soup along with some sliced or shredded meat. This is common in Asian cuisine, and it can be nutritious, assuming you don't rely on instant noodles and artificial flavour packets.

You'd probably be looking at one of the following:

  • Ramen, which is traditionally made from la mian (hand-pulled buckwheat noodles, although sometimes they're made from wheat), served in broth, usually with meat and green onions, and often flavoured with soy sauce. Keep in mind that real ramen is actually quite difficult and time-consuming to make, and is not even close to the "instant ramen" you see for 99 cents a package. You can cheat a little and still have a decent meal by buying quality dried noodles and cooking them in real homemade broth, or at least canned broth.

  • Udon, AKA "thick noodles" (made from wheat), which are also typically prepared in broth, specifically dashi - broth made from kombu (kelp), dried tuna or bonito flakes, and occasionally mushrooms, and seasoned with soy sauce and mirin (rice wine). Meat isn't as common in udon, but fish and tofu are, especially deep-fried. You can still make it with beef or chicken. You can find decent-quality instant dashi at Asian grocery stores, so again, prep time is minimal if you get the right ingredients.

  • Soba (buckwheat) noodle soup, which (in my experience) is almost always served in miso (again, available in instant form). Seasonings and toppings are otherwise similar to udon, although they tend to get a bit more elaborate. For example, the wiki page references tsukimi soba which means poaching a raw egg in the cooked soup.

  • Finally Phở, which is the Vietnamese take on this, which uses rice noodles (so definitely not brown). The most common preparation (at least in all of the Vietnamese restaurants around here) is simply the hot soup and noodles with some rare beef dropped in to briefly cook, then topped with basil and bean sprouts just before eating. The broth is really very difficult for non-natives to learn and instant pho is usually terrible, so I wouldn't recommend this for beginners.

Of course you can always just go with good old-fashioned Western chicken noodle soup or chicken soup with rice and vegetables. Chicken noodle soup usually uses egg noodles, which are, again, definitely not brown, so although they're a fine choice, they're almost certainly not what the question is referring to.

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+1 for detail :) –  BaffledCook Aug 25 '11 at 18:43
    
Thanks! I still have no clue what the nutritionist was referring to exactly, but this answers my question and others I was pondering. :) –  user7179 Aug 29 '11 at 17:35
    
Although I am beginning to wonder if these meals aren't considered time-savers to make per se, but that they are easily refrigerated and last relatively long if made in bulk? –  user7179 Aug 29 '11 at 17:37
    
@user7179: You can probably freeze them (they are essentially soup, after all), but I wouldn't count on them lasting more than a few days in the refrigerator. Meat broth is a veritable breeding ground for bacteria and some of them can survive refrigeration temperatures. Frozen, you're fine. I consider these to be very quick meals, but perhaps, depending on your frame of reference, they are more like effort savers than time savers. You just throw your ingredients in a pot and let it simmer for however long you like. –  Aaronut Aug 29 '11 at 22:25
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