Vermicelli Rice, A Table Essential


When I was a young child I was such a fussy eater. Nothing I liked more than a warm plate of vermicelli rice with some yoghurt. My mum ,understandably, was not that keen on such a diet and she kept trying with me to eat different stuff. I am so glad she did as some of the things I hated as a child I can't live without now.

Vermicelli rice is by far the most common dish cooked in Syria. It is served almost on a daily basis in any Syrian house hold. It is not a meal on its own right but it accompanies main dishes. The rice is served next to vegetable stews, yoghurt based dishes and some oven baked ones.

Rice is not a native product of Syria or the rest of the Levant. And although some rice is grown in eastern parts of the country around the Euphrates, most of the rice consumed in Syria is imported. Historically speaking, apart from bread, the main forms of carbohydrate in Syrian diet came from bulgur and Freekeh (roasted green wheat grains). Although both are still widely consumed, nowadays rice is by far the most popular.

The perfect rice to use is a hotly debated issue. Long grain is the easiest to get right (hence the most popular) but short grain is the most tasty. That was my mum argument, so you know which type of rice I grew up eating. I used short grain rice to make vermicelli rice till I moved to London when I started using Basmati. Now I am totally converted, Basmati is the way to go.

Final note before the recipe; Is it Gordon Ramsay who appoints chefs based on their ability to cook boiled eggs? In Syria, the perfect cook is judged on his or her ability to cook this dish. The perfect rice should be well cooked; not over and not under. The rice grains should not be sticky but sticky enough if that makes any sense.

I truly believe this is the most difficult way to cook rice especially if you are using short grain. It could be very challenging to get it right the first time. You need to estimate the exact amount of water needed for the dish to cook beforehand as there is no bar boiling or draining excess water as with many rice dishes. Perfecting vermicelli rice comes with experience so don't be disappointed if you tried it and it didn't come out right, try again and you will get it perfect.

A couple of tips to help cook the perfect rice. First wash the rice properly before soaking to get rid of all the excess starch to prevent the rice coming out sticky. Secondly don't over-stir the rice. I always say you are only allowed to stir the rice twice; once at the mid point when you turn the heat down, and the second when you turn the heat off.


Here is my recipe:

Rice of your choice 2 cups
Vermicelli pasta a good handful
Ghee clarified butter 2 tbsp
Salt
Hot water

Wash your rice and soak in cold water for 20-30 minutes.

Start by melting the Ghee butter and add the vermicelli pasta. Stir continuously to prevent the pasta burning and get an even browning. You need to fry the pasta till dark brown.

Take the pot of the heat and add the hot water. The amount of water required varies depending the type of rice. Follow the packet instructions. As a general rule 2 cups of rice will need 3-3.5 cups of water. "Easy cook" rice will need less water.

Please be very careful not to burn yourself. Adding water to very hot butter will cause small melted butter droplets to fly out of the pot.

Return the pot on the cooker and add salt. Taste the water and don't worry if it is a bit salty as the rice will absorb the salt. Drain and add the rice to the boiling water and bring back to boil. Turn the heat to medium, cover and cook for ten minutes. Check the rice at this point and stir it very gently. Add a bit of boiling water if necessary.

Turn down the heat to as low as you can, cover and let the rice steam and finish cooking for another ten minutes. Stir for the second time and serve.

31 comments:

Sanjana said...

Delicious- Coming from an Indian family I grew up eating Basmati but recently I've begun to really enjoy short grain rice because it's a totally different texture to Basmati. I really enjoyed reading this, Thanks!

The London Foodie said...

Hi Kano,

It is odd, my Japanese grandmother used to make me that vermicelli rice, I love it to this day. Hope you are well.

Luiz @ The London Foodie

Kano said...

@Sanjana

It is totally different.

In our house my mum used short grain rice for all Syrian dishes and Basmati when she cooked international dishes.

Kano said...

@Luiz

It looks like your Japanese grandmother is Syrian :)

Azita said...

This is one of my favorite rice dishes. I like to serve it with some lightly fried onions, raisins and dates. Delicious. Thanks.

s said...

nice post..love this type of rice.

Anonymous said...

I just love Vermicelli rice - I tend to use Basmati as well, I just like its taste & texture best. Interesting though that you would use hot water. Do you only do that when preparing Vermicelli rice or also when cooking "normal" rice (if you ever do)? I tend to use cold water for both...

s

Kano said...

@Azita

These Persian flavours sounds very interesting. I will give it a go.

@S

Thank you

Kano said...

@Anonymous

Welcome to my blog.

I am not sure really If I use hot or cold water to cook other types of rice.

If I am cooking rice to go with a Green Thai Curry or Japanese rice I will use cold water and cook the rice all the way through.

I hardly ever bar boil the rice, drain it and cook it again. I think I only done that once or twice cooking Biryani.

tasteofbeirut said...

This was a favorite meal of mine too especially when my "stomach was tired"! Our teta (grandma) made the best rice, unequaled in the family, with glistening grains that were not sticky or mushy, and she always used Egyptian short-grain rice. I tried it several times and I never got it as good as hers, so now I use Basmati like you!

Kano said...

@Joumana

My mum uses Egyptian short grain rice as well. It tastes great but something about the fragrance of Basmati that I really like.

Allie said...

Your rice looks so beautiful!

shayma said...

your rice looks gorgeous- each grain separated and the vermicelli glistening. a syrian lady taught me how to make this dish and thanks to her guidance it has always turned out well. i am most grateful to her. i always use basmati, being part pakistani, but the short grain rice your mother likes is probably lovely, too.

Foodycat said...

I think rice and yoghurt is a much more nutritious option than a lot of others I can think of! I want to try this.

Kano said...

@Allie
Thank you very much. next time you are in London I will invite you around to make you some.

@Shayma
Thank you. I didn't know that you post a similar recipe few days ago. what a coincedence!

@Foodycat
Go for it. It is a very easy recipe to make. Let me know how it goes.

mona said...

I finally tried the vermicelli rice recipe. It worked out fabulously. Thank you so much for posting the recipe. I had no clue the secret to the dish is Ghee. In the past, I've been using canola oil which was burning the vermicelli.

Kano said...

@mona
I am glad the recipe worked well. Please keep giving me feed back on the recipes you try. Succesful or not.

Dubai Bride said...

I made it last night and it was simply perfect and it looked even better than yours :P

Kano said...

@Dubai Bride

Yeah right!!!

Zoubida said...

I made this at least half a dozen times for supper. We love it.

Kano said...

@Zoubida

Gald the recipe is working well for you.

Halo said...

wow we make this in the DR. I didn't know this dish was Syrian. Just goes to show that the DR has many influences. We also make Kipe, you may know it as Kibe. Delicious!

rakhi katare said...

Absolutely delicious extra long grain basmati rice,classic recipe..looks divine.

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