Rice with vermicelli is a simple and comforting side dish that you'll see everywhere in Israel, from kitchen tables to school cafeterias. It's easy to make with pantry ingredients, and I include instructions for cooking it on the stovetop or in a rice cooker.Yum
Rice with vermicelli is also known affectionately as "rice with snakes," which sounds kinda Temple of Doom in English, but cute in Hebrew. When I searched for recipe leads in Hebrew, I found lots of results. In English, though, there were less than I expected and most were Lebanese. So it seems that rice with vermicelli entered the Israeli culinary lexicon from its Middle Eastern neighbor. The recipes were virtually identical except for a few details: fine egg noodles are sometimes called for in Israeli recipes, and, of course, Israeli recipes often use chicken-flavored soup powder (bouillon)—see here for more on this ubiquitious Israeli ingredient. Oh, and if you're Lebanese, or Persian, or Indian, or another individual who prefers rice to cook up in separate, non-sticky grains, you will want to carefully rinse your rice. If you're stam Israeli, you do not have time for that, what with juggling all your WhatsApp group chats.
The process for making rice with vermicelli is almost exactly the same in a pot on the stovetop or in a rice cooker, assuming you have a multi-function rice cooker with a sauté function, which most, but not all, have today. (I've mentioned before that I love my rice cooker.) There are definitely simple rice cookers on the market that have exactly one button, and they are great at cooking rice—I had one for years that got me through college and grad school. However, that kind of rice cooker won't work here, because you have to toast the noodles in olive oil first.
What type of noodles to use
You don't need to have specifically vermicelli noodles for this dish! In fact, I'd never noticed them on the supermarket shelf until Coronavirus happened, and suddenly they were the among the few bags of dried pasta available. So, thinking of my noodle-loving children, and happily finding an OU on the bag (it's a little hard to see in the photo; it's near the package weight information), I snatched it up. And then, of course, turned it into rice and vermicelli. Otherwise, I make it with fine egg noodles, which I'm more likely to have on hand. You can break them a bit with your hands if yours aren't in bite-sized pieces.
Toasting the noodles
You'll start by toasting the noodles in olive oil over medium heat (or using the sauté function of your rice cooker). You want a critical mass of them to turn a golden brown color, but not to burn. They don't all need to be toasted; just most of them. It only takes a few minutes, and then you'll stir in the rice and get it all nice and coated in the olive oil.
Cooking the rice: stovetop or rice cooker
With the heat still on medium/sauté, add in the seasonings and the boiling water. (I use water from my electric hot water kettle.) Bring it up to a boil, which shouldn't take long, since we're starting with hot water.
Then, you're going to turn the heat down to low (on the stovetop) and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice and noodles. In the rice cooker, close the lid and set it to "white rice" mode. It will take about the same amount of time, a little bit less for the rice cooker, 20-30 minutes.
What to serve with rice with vermicelli
This recipe makes a large, family-gathering-sized portion, but it halves easily if you're not feeding a crowd.
Rice with Vermicelli (parve)
- 2 cups long-grain rice - such as Persian or basmati
- 1 cup vermicelli pasta or fine egg noodles
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 ½ Tbsp chicken bouillon
- Salt and pepper
- 4 ½ cups boiling water
- In a medium pot or rice cooker, heat the olive oil on medium-high or on sauté. Add the vermicelli and let it toast, stirring occasionally. Some of the pieces should turn golden brown, but be careful not to let them burn.
- Add the rice and turn to coat in the olive oil. Season with bouillon, salt, and pepper.
- Pour in the boiling water. Bring up to a simmer.
- Lower the flame, or, if using rice cooker, switch to white rice cooking mode. Cook until the water is fully absorbed, 20-30 more minutes.