Rice and vermicelli noodles

Plain white rice becomes a festive side dish with angel hair pasta.
Photo: Miriam Kresh

This is a homey, humble rice dish served in homes and eateries everywhere in Israel. Although why it’s considered humble, I don’t know. It’s so attractive, with its contrasting mixture of white rice and thin, golden noodles. Its neutral colors set off the bright looks of vegetables and main dishes. And the flavor is delightful – much more interesting than plain rice.

Good cooks reach for rice as a tasty foil to the sharper flavors of other cooked dishes, especially those with hot peppers or pungent spices. I always see it in little working man’s eateries around the open-air markets, next to beans in tomato sauce and grilled chicken. I knew I had a hit on my hands when my teenager, spooning herself a second serving, said, “Mom, can you always make rice this way?”

I like to use a very old-fashioned, traditional way to steam rice – almost any rice dish – so that it always comes out perfect. When the cooking’s done, turn off the heat and remove the pot lid. Quickly arrange a clean kitchen towel over the pot, leaving the ends hanging over the sides. Clamp the lid down. Remove the pot from the stove (as you don’t want to risk the loose ends of the towel catching fire if you’ve got another pot on the stove) and set it in a warm place to rest. Alternatively, gather up the loose ends and fasten them to the knob of the lid with a rubber band. Then you can safely keep it on the stove. Let the rice sit and improve itself for 10 minutes, then serve. This is optional, but it really makes a difference if you like your rice cooked thoroughly but with no trace of mushiness.

Rice and Vermicelli Noodles Recipe

Prep5 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes


  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1/2 cup vermicelli (angel-hair) noodles
  • 2 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Rinse the rice in a strainer, under running water, until the water runs clear. Set the rice to drain.
  • Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the noodles and fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring and watching carefully that they don’t burn.
  • As soon as the noodles have darkened, add the water. Cook for 3 minutes, uncovered.
  • Add the rice, garlic and salt. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  • Cover the pan and lower the heat as low as possible. Cook 15 minutes.
  • You may serve right away, or steam the rice with the kitchen towel method. Either way, fluff the rice with a fork before serving.
Rice and vermicelli noodles (Photo: Miriam Kresh)


Don’t remove the pan lid while the rice is cooking, or you’ll lose the head of steam that leaves every grain fully cooked, but separate.

For a richer flavor, substitute 1 tablespoon melted, unsalted butter for 1 of olive oil.

Subscribe to This Week Unpacked

Each week we bring you a wrap-up of all the best stories from Unpacked. Stay in the know and feel smarter about all things Jewish.