A classic staple rice of Middle Eastern cuisine, vermicelli is toasted in olive oil and cooked with long grain rice to make a fluffy simple rice pilaf that serves as the perfect side dish to so many main dishes.
What is Vermicelli?
Vermicelli is a very thin noodle, similar to spaghetti but with a much thinner diameter. Due to how thin it is, it can easily be incorporated into rice without being overbearing in the dish. If you want to know exactly how thin it is, check out this article. You can also use angel hair pasta, broken up into small pieces if you can’t find vermicelli. Vermicelli is a golden yellow color even before toasting, and becomes a deep golden brown after toasting in a saucepan with olive oil.
What is Vermicelli Rice?
Vermicelli rice is known in Arabic as ruz ma shareeyah. It’s a rice pilaf that consists simply of rice (I use Basmati), and vermicelli noodles that have been toasted in olive oil. This is seasoned very simply with salt. Vermicelli rice makes for the perfect side dish to so many Middle Eastern stews. There’s something about adding the golden, glistening vermicelli strands to the rice that really elevates it. My kids love having this simply mixed with some yogurt (ruz wa laban). Vermicelli rice is vegan, unlike another very popular rice dish we make with minced meat.
How to make Vermicelli rice:
The rice: start by soaking the rice in some room temperature tap water for 10-15 minutes. I like soaking my rice just to make sure the rice is all clean without any nasty weevils hiding in it. I won’t deny I’ve made this many times with just a quick soak or rinse- I don’t always do the whole 15 minute thing. Once soaking period is over, rinse the rice well until water runs clear to get rid of any excess starchiness.
The vermicelli: heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large saucepan over medium high heat. Once hot, add the broken vermicelli strands, and continue to sauté constantly until the vermicelli turns a golden brown. You have to be careful, because vermicelli can burn quite easily. At this point, your rice should be rinsed and ready to add because as soon as the vermicelli is ready, dump in the rice to prevent further cooking of the vermicelli strands. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine well, then add the water.
How much water to add to basmati rice?
The water: I like to go with a ration of 1 cup of basmati rice to 1.5 cups of water. This always gives me rice that isn’t too hard and dense, nor too sticky and mushy. I sometimes end up adding up to 0.5 cups of extra water, based on this guideline. You want the amount of water you add the rice to cover it by about in inch or so. Most articles online will tell you to do 1:2 ration of rice to water, but I find you need less- this could be personal preference, but that’s how my mom has always done it and her rice is perfect too!
A generous pinch of salt for seasoning is added to the water. We don’t need to add any extra oil or butter since we already fried the vermicelli in oil and that remains in the pot.
Let the mixture come to a boil, then cover with a tight fitting lid and let it simmer at low heat for an additional 15-20 minutes or until water is fully absorbed. Then, remove from heat, and let stand an extra 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
FAQ’s/Tips for success:
Can I use brown rice?
Yes. Just fry the vermicelli, then add the amount of brown rice/water according to package directions and cook as package directs.
Can I add more seasoning?
Feel free! We keep ours really basic to serve as a great vessel to many of our flavourful stews, but you can add some ground cardamom, a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, whole cloves to the water.
Can I use gluten free vermicelli/rice noodles?
I haven’t tried this, but if they become brown and crispy when toasted like regular vermicelli, I think it would work!
-Rinse rice thoroughly to get rid of extra starch that might make the rice gummy
-Season generously with salt
-After rice comes to a boil, make sure its simmering at a very low heat so the bottom of the rice doesn’t burn.
What to serve vermicelli rice with:
This is what we serve with any variety of thick and hearty stews, whether they are yogurt sauce or tomato sauce based like:
And would go great with any curry or stir fry like:
How long can store cooked rice for?
4-5 days in the fridge. You can reheat it on the stovetop by adding a little water to the pan and heating on low heat, or microwaving for a minute or so for each cup of rice.
- 2 cups long grain basmati rice
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of your pan)
- 1/2 cup vermicelli pasta – broke up into inch long pieces (sha3riya)
- 3-3 1/2 cups water
- Soak rice for 10-15 minutes, then strain the water from the rice, rinsing well until water runs clear.
- In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the vermicelli, and keep stiring constantly until vermicelli toasts and turns deep golden brown. It'll happen fast so keep watching-vermicelli easily burns!
- Once vermicelli is brown, add the rinsed rice to the pot, and stir to combine it evenly with the vermicelli. Add the 3 cups of water. If the water still isn't covering the top of the rice by an inch, add the extra 1/2 cup. Season generously with salt.
- Bring rice/water to a boil- turn up heat if you have to, then cover the pot, and turn heat to low so that mixture comes to a low simmer. Let it cook undisturbed for 15-20 minutes or until the water has all been absorbed.
- Once water has been absorbed, take pan off heat and let it stand undisturbed for 10 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork.
- Serve with your favorite dish! Check out above post for some suggestions.