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How to cook Vietnamese rice vermicelli

Updated on April 1, 2013

If you are in Vietnam, you can get fresh vermicelli from the food market but living away from Vietnam we do not have that luxury but dried rice vermicelli. If you are happy with the instruction on the packet's label, the conversation ends; But if you're like us, Vietnamese, you might wish to read more for a fluffy, fresh noodle to go in fresh roll, with char-grilled pork or spring roll.

Picture: Wet vs Fresh

Click thumbnail to view full-size
wet vermicellifresh, moist vermicelli
wet vermicelli
wet vermicelli | Source
fresh, moist vermicelli
fresh, moist vermicelli | Source

How to cook the dried rice vermicelli (bún khô)

Vermicelli's type determines cooking time. There are several ways to achieve the same result. Normally, I would soak it in to water to reduce the cooking time, save energy of course. One more reason to do this is because the noodle will be cooked more thoroughly and evenly.
The cooking time depends on your soaking length, water temperature and the thickness of noodle stick.
Thin noodle require more attention because it's fragile and turns mushy easily.

At boiling step, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add some salt, vinegar and oil. Add vermicelli and stir gently to loosen them, stir once or twice more. Cook until the noodles are white and soft inside but still slightly resilient, about 5 minutes. Pour to a colander, drain, rinse under cold running water and set aside. Occasionally, every 5 minutes gently fluff the noodles and turn it up side down. Do that to prevent the bottom part and the edge part will become soggy.

The noodle should be moist and sticky but not wet, see the difference on two pictures above.

Flat rice noodle  - bánh phở
Flat rice noodle - bánh phở | Source
mould | Source

What is rice vermicelli?

Vermicelli was original Italian word for a pasta in strings that thinner than spaghetti; Rice vermicelli sharing its shape but made from rice.

Similar to the bánh phở - flat rice noodle (picture 1), rice vermicelli made from long grain rice but the production is a bit more complicated: Rice after being soak overnight will then be ground with water. The mixture from that process is kept for two days till sour. In that two days, the over-surface liquid will be pour out few times. Finally, the remaining rice flour will be further draining in cloths, boiled, pound and put into a mould (picture 2). Vermicelli will be pressed down into the boiling water under need, leaved 2-3 minutes till cooked then transferred to cold water to cool then drained. The most popular rice vermicelli is in the form of tangled vermicelli however vermicelli is also available in another forms such as bún lá and bún bánh bellow.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bún rối - tangled rice vermicelli Bún lá/ bún con - leaf-aliked vermicelliBún bánh - thread vermicelli
Bún rối - tangled rice vermicelli
Bún rối - tangled rice vermicelli | Source
Bún lá/ bún con - leaf-aliked vermicelli
Bún lá/ bún con - leaf-aliked vermicelli | Source
Bún bánh - thread vermicelli
Bún bánh - thread vermicelli | Source

Types of Vietnamese rice vermicelli

Difference in size
We have thick string vermicelli for noodle soup and thin string vermicelli for bún chấm.

Bún chấm??

  • Bún means rice vermicelli
  • Chấm means dip

This bún chấm is not a particular dish but a range of dishes like chargrilled pork and vermicelli (picture 1) where you will have a plate of vermicelli accompanied by dipping sauce and a table salad. You then dip vermicelli into the dipping sauce, add some herbs, some other bits to create your unique bite, one after the other.

Difference in shape

  • Bún rối - tangled vermicelli
  • Bún lá/ bún con - leaf-liked vermicelli, pieces by pieces
  • Bún bánh - thread vermicelli, please suggest if you have a better word for that


  • Normally, the noodle would take 30 minutes since cooked to achieves its desire outcome but if you are in hurry, you can put it into the microwave, it would fluff and dry after few minutes.
  • You could also pour rinsed vermicelli into boiled water for half a minute then drain, hot water simple evaporate quicker.
  • For noodle soup, you don't need fluffy noodle


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