When I was 16, I worked at a knock-off version of Starbucks in a mall food court. In addition to gathering the best mall employee gossip (those cell phone salespeople have some serious game), I also experienced the painful bliss of being surrounded by mouthwatering smells from all the restaurants firing up their grills. If I wasn’t trolling the food court for free samples during my lunch break, I was dipping into the Japanese American noodle place for a plate of sweet-and-savory warmth. Of course, I am totally aware that there was probably nothing traditional about the plate of Yakisoba noodles I bought, but it satisfied my hunger every single time.
Fast forward a few decades. During a routine walk-through at my local Costco — which I now, in all my aged glory, approach with the rabid excitement I once reserved for overpriced bars — I came across Lotus Foods’ Organic Millet & Brown Rice Ramen Noodles. I had no plans in mind when I added it to my cart. Ever a sucker for marketing, I thought the steaming bowl of noodles on the packaging looked very slurpable. I’d also been hoping to incorporate more complex grains into my meals, although it was a fleeting thought rather than a true resolution. The clincher: The label said that these noodles only take four minutes total to cook. Sold!
A week or so passed. I forgot the noodles. I forgot my wayward youth.
And then, some time later, during that 1 p.m. hour, when my stomach felt like it was literally eating itself, I stumbled across the brown rice ramen noodles in the pantry. Usually, when I find myself hungry in that desperate way, I power my way through my daughter’s carefully guarded snack collection. But four minutes for a meal? I could wait for that.
As advertised, I successfully dashed a dish together quicker than I could say “chronic lower back pain.” While the noodles boiled, I heated up some frozen veggies, along with leftover shrimp from last night’s dinner in a skillet. I made a quick sauce with honey, chili oil, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Then I tossed everything together into something that was redolent of my bygone food court days. The noodles still had some nice chew, and they held the sauce and toppings beautifully.
This imitation mall noodle meal got a repeat performance — or two — in my work-from-home lunch lineup. I found myself staring at the clock, mentally cataloging the contents of my fridge (bacon? Why not! Frozen edamame? Yes please!), and willing it to be Saucy Noodle Time. Historically, WFH lunches could be rather sad, but when it’s an actual hot, savory noodle dish that comes together in less than 10 minutes? Well, there’s nothing sad about that.
I’ve since used up my entire package of brown rice ramen noodles (and there are 12 pouches in a pack!). I’ve made veggie-heavy stir fries, a version of Amelia Rampe’s incredible ramlet, and mushroomy soups to stave off the winter chills. My husband, too, has gotten in on the noodle train, and requests it often. “You know I can’t resist Saucy Noodles,” he says, with a yearning I have only seen on our wedding day. And why not? Brown rice ramen noodles are just as good for a busy weeknight family dinner as a solo lunch at home. Cook, enjoy, repeat. Mall employee gossip sadly not included.
Have you tried these noodles? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Thao is the Managing Editor of Cubby, our resource for families at home. She’s a writer and editor based out of Columbus, Ohio, where she chases her kindergartener around while embracing the messy joy of parenthood. Her debut novel, Banyan Moon, comes out in 2023 from Mariner | HarperCollins.