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What Is Chinese Vermicelli?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 22 June 2014
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Chinese vermicelli is a type of noodle made primarily from the starch of mung beans, potatoes, or other plants that are high in starch content. Sometimes called cellophane noodles because of their appearance, Chinese vermicelli is typically clear or very lightly colored, and once rehydrated can appear similar to fiber optics. They are used in a variety of traditional dishes all across the world and have become increasingly popular in the United States. They can easily be found at most grocery stores and supermarkets.

Produced by combining starch extracted from a plant such as mung beans with water, Chinese vermicelli is typically available in a packaged, dry form, similar to other noodles and pastas. Sometimes labeled saifun, the noodles are typically round, and though they come in a number of different thicknesses, they are commonly fairly narrow. Preparing Chinese vermicelli usually involves adding the noodles to boiling water to return their flexibility and texture.

Once the noodles have been reconstituted in boiling water, it can then be added to a number of different dishes. From hot soups and egg rolls, to sweet dishes and simple combinations of the noodles with ground or sliced meat, the uses of Chinese vermicelli are numerous and encompass a wide range of flavors. The noodles themselves have little flavor and typically take on the flavors of whatever ingredients they are prepared with.

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Sometimes confused with rice vermicelli, Chinese vermicelli is made using starch from sources other than rice and is typically longer than rice noodles. Chinese vermicelli can be used in a number of different dishes found all over the world, from Chinese soups and stir fries, to Japanese salads, Pakistani desserts, and Korean stir fries with other ingredients. Similar noodles, known as “long rice,” are often used in Hawaiian dishes such as hot soups in which the noodles are prepared with flavorful broth.

Though they may appear somewhat strange to those who are used to typically opaque noodles made with flour, Chinese vermicelli can be used in just about any type of dish that uses thin pasta or noodles. Chicken soup, which often uses flat noodles or spaghetti, can be prepared using the cellophane noodles instead. For use in soups, the noodles can be rehydrated directly in the soup once it is hot and do not need to be boiled first. They can be especially nice in soups or dishes where other flavors are intended as the focal point, because of their fine texture and lightness on the tongue.

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Discuss this Article

KaBoom
Post 14

It's funny these noodles are sometimes called cellophane noodles, because they really do look a lot like cellophane! I personally love them, even though they do look kind of weird.

Recently, I really wanted to make some pork fried rice, but I didn't have any rice. I had all the other ingredients though, plus some Chinese vermicelli. I used the vermicelli in place of the rice, and the dish came out beautifully. I think I will make it this way again, even if I do have access to rice!

Monika
Post 13

@SZapper - Yeah, you can pretty much make noodles out of anything starchy! I know a few people who can't eat gluten, and noodles made from alternative starches are their favorites! I'm really glad there are a lot of wheat free noodle alternative for them, because I couldn't imagine not being able to eat pasta!

I don't have a gluten intolerance of any kind, but I love Chinese vermicelli. Last time I ate Chinese, eggplant and vermicelli was the dish I got. It was delicious! I think I'm going to try and recreate it at home sometime soon.

SZapper
Post 12

I'm always amazed at how many different things noodles can be made out of! Italian pasta is usually made from wheat, but I've seen noodles made from whole wheat, rice, corn, and potato, to name a few! I had no idea there was pasta made from mung beans though!

I would love to try and cook with these. I think the fact that they are clear would make for a really cool looking dish. I would probably make them with some kind of Chinese sauce (maybe hot and sour), along with vegetables, and maybe some meat. I'm definitely going to look for Chinese Vermicelli next time I go to the store!

shell4life
Post 11

@wavy58 – You can make a cheap soup with just beef or chicken bouillion cubes and Chinese vermicelli. I doubt your roommate would be offended by little flavoring cubes, and you don't even have to refrigerate them.

All you do is boil water and stir in one cube per cup of liquid. You dissolve them, and then you add the vermicelli.

You can also make a vegetarian Chinese stirfry using carrots, broccoli, zucchini, and vermicelli. That would be a good way to get nutrients. As long as you are not feeding it to your roommate, you could flavor it with one of the bouillion cubes.

wavy58
Post 10

Does anyone here have any cheap meal suggestions involving Chinese vermicelli? I am a college student subsisting on little income, and I am always looking for ways to get inexpensively creative with food.

I have a refrigerator in my dorm, so buying fresh vegetables is no problem. I prefer to stay away from recipes involving meat, though. My roommate is a vegetarian, and I don't want to offend her.

I have had egg rolls with vermicelli before, and I really enjoyed them. Making them here would be too complicated, though. I'm looking for something quick and easy that won't break my budget.

kylee07drg
Post 9

My sister uses Chinese vermicelli in her kung pao recipe. Many people do theirs with only chicken, but she uses beef, chicken, and shrimp, so the vermicelli take on a lot of different flavors.

She also includes broccoli and red peppers in the dish. She adds the vermicelli once everything is fully cooked, and she lets the noodles simmer in the meaty liquid for a few minutes so they can soak up tons of delicious flavor.

Many people think that these clear noodles are only filler, but I enjoy eating them. Once they borrow flavors from other items in the dish, they become just as delicious as the items themselves.

seag47
Post 8

Chinese vermicelli is definitely shocking when you first see it. I remember the very first time I bit into an egg roll at a Chinese restaurant and saw these tiny clear noodles sticking out. I had the immediate sensation that I had just bitten into a clump of worms!

My friend who was with me reassured me that they were made from vegetables, no worms included. Still, it was hard to wrap my mind around this. So, I simply ate the egg roll without looking at it, and it was delicious.

Since then, egg rolls with Chinese vermicelli have become a favorite of mine. I buy them frozen at the grocery store, and heating them in the oven only takes twenty minutes, so they make a great side dish to a meal.

myharley
Post 7

We eat a lot of Chinese food at our house, and I have experimented with several different kinds of noodles, sauces and recipes.

Once I sent my husband to the store for some Pad Thai noodles, and he came home with these clear Chinese verimicelli noodles.

This was the first time I had ever seen them and was curious how they would taste in my regular stir fry dishes.

As far as taste goes, there wasn't much difference and I found out that I enjoyed the texture of these noodles.

Once I added the shrimp and topped the dish with peanuts, I enjoyed it just as much as other noodles I had used for this recipe. Our family likes cilantro, so I like to garnish this with some cilantro leaves and a sprinkle of lime juice.

Mykol
Post 6

@SarahSon - I have a recipe for stir fry that is very similar to this, but I like to add chicken to mine. I also like to experiment with different sauces.

The first time I made this dish with the cellophane noodles, I sprinkled some teriyaki sauce on it. This was really good, but my favorite is a peanut sauce that really adds a lot of flavor.

This is one way I can get my kids to eat their vegetables. They love the clear noodles mixed in with the chicken and sauce. Getting them to eat some vegetables along with it is an added bonus.

SarahSon
Post 5

Since I am a vegetarian, I am always looking for simple, yet flavorful dishes I can make. One of the easiest Chinese vegetarian recipes I have is made with vermicelli noodles.

This dish takes only a few minutes to make, but is full of flavor and satisfying. I add garlic, soy sauce and chili sauce or red curry paste to these noodles. This is a great side dish, or even as a meal in itself.

One thing I have noticed is the]noodles don't take very long to cook. If you cook them too long, they will be too mushy and not nearly as enjoyable to taste.

Many times I have also added whatever fresh vegetables are in season or that I have on hand. I have added carrots, broccoli, peppers and mushrooms and this makes a perfect, light meal any time of the year.

LisaLou
Post 4

The first time I saw these clear noodles, I had no idea what they were, or how they would taste. Now I use them all the time when I am making different Asian recipes.

One of the things I like best about cooking with these noodles, is I don't have to boil them ahead of time. This saves on time, and one less pot I have on the stove and need to clean up.

If I am making a hot soup, I add these in the last few minutes and they soften up and have just the right texture. They don't have much flavor by themselves, which is nice because they enhance the flavor of whatever I am cooking with.

croydon
Post 3

@indigomoth - I always try to fool myself that the bean based noodles are a bit lower in GI than the other kinds of noodle. Beans have much more protein than rice for example, so I hope they have more nutrients and take longer to digest.

And if you are having trouble dividing up vermicelli noodles there are a couple of options. They always sell those big, cheap bundles because they expect you to be cooking them for a family.

But if you want single or double servings, you can sometimes find packets that size, and they are almost as inexpensive.

Or you can use a very sharp pair of kitchen scissors and cut some off the big bundle. Just try to do it within a shopping bag because bits of noodle will inevitably fall to the ground otherwise. You can put all the little bits and pieces into your soup.

I lived on these noodles when I was a student. They are healthier and tastier than two minute noodles, in my opinion.

indigomoth
Post 2
@irontoenail - I like cooking them separately from the rest of the meal and adding them later. I find with a bit of oil they turn out just fine and I don't have to worry about over or under cooking them with the other foods.

If you get them from the supermarket often they come in huge bags which are far too much for one or two people, but which are very difficult to separate into separate portions, so you end up with way too many.

So, I find if you just cook them up separately you can use the leftovers the next day.

You can use them as a substitute in Chinese fried rice recipes for example, or anything that requires noodles, although remember to add them to the broth at the last minute.

They are so versatile. And the ones made with mung beans are especially tasty as well.

irontoenail
Post 1

I love this kind of noodle. It's always cheap and they are super tasty, especially when you make them with a really good broth.

I generally try to cook them with chicken, boiling the chicken and vegetables for a while so the water is nice and flavored and then adding the noodles for a few minutes before taking it off the heat.

If you add the noodles too soon, they can become gluey and stick together in a kind of mushy mass.

You really want to stick to the same standard as pasta and keep them firm, but cooked through.

Wow, it's making me hungry even thinking about it.

I think I might have to pick up some noodles and have them tonight.

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