Chinese Vermicelli: Preparing, Cooking Techniques & How to Cook

by Ella

Chinese vermicelli, also known as cellophane noodles, glass noodles, or bean thread noodles, are a versatile and popular ingredient in many Asian cuisines. Made from mung bean starch, sweet potato starch, or other types of starch, these translucent noodles absorb flavors well and have a unique, slightly chewy texture. Whether you’re preparing a stir-fry, soup, or salad, mastering the art of cooking Chinese vermicelli will elevate your culinary skills and delight your taste buds. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about cooking Chinese vermicelli, from selecting the right type to perfecting various cooking methods.

Understanding Chinese Vermicelli

Types of Chinese Vermicelli:

Chinese vermicelli comes in several varieties, each made from different starches and offering distinct textures. The most common types include:


Mung Bean Vermicelli: Made from mung bean starch, these noodles are also known as cellophane or glass noodles. They are translucent and have a slightly chewy texture.


Sweet Potato Vermicelli: These noodles are made from sweet potato starch and are typically thicker and chewier than mung bean vermicelli. They are often used in Korean and Chinese dishes.


Rice Vermicelli: Although not technically the same as glass noodles, rice vermicelli is another popular type of thin noodle used in Asian cuisine. They are made from rice flour and are white in color.


Nutritional Value:

Chinese vermicelli is low in fat and calories, making it a healthy addition to various dishes. It is also gluten-free, which makes it suitable for those with gluten sensitivities. The nutritional content can vary depending on the type of starch used, but generally, vermicelli is a good source of carbohydrates.

Selecting and Storing Chinese Vermicelli

Choosing the Right Vermicelli:

When selecting Chinese vermicelli, consider the dish you plan to prepare. Mung bean vermicelli is ideal for soups and salads, while sweet potato vermicelli is perfect for stir-fries due to its thicker texture. Ensure that the packaging is intact and that the noodles are not broken or clumped together.

Storing Vermicelli:

Store dry vermicelli in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Once opened, keep the noodles in an airtight container to prevent moisture absorption and maintain their quality. Properly stored, dry vermicelli can last for up to a year.

Preparing Chinese Vermicelli

Soaking Method:

Soaking is the most common method for preparing Chinese vermicelli, especially for dishes that require quick cooking or no cooking at all.

Measure the Noodles: Determine the amount of vermicelli needed for your recipe. Typically, one bundle of vermicelli is sufficient for 2-3 servings.

Soak in Warm Water: Place the vermicelli in a large bowl and cover it with warm water (around 120°F or 50°C). Soak for 10-15 minutes, or until the noodles are soft and pliable.

Drain and Rinse: Once soaked, drain the vermicelli in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the soaking process. This helps prevent the noodles from becoming too soft or sticky.

Cut if Necessary: Depending on your recipe, you may need to cut the vermicelli into shorter lengths using kitchen scissors. This step is optional but can make the noodles easier to manage in some dishes.

Boiling Method:

Boiling vermicelli is another effective preparation method, particularly for dishes that require hot, fully-cooked noodles.

Boil Water: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt if desired.

Cook the Noodles: Add the vermicelli to the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the noodles are tender but not mushy. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Drain and Rinse: Drain the cooked vermicelli in a colander and rinse with cold water to remove excess starch and stop the cooking process. This helps maintain the noodles’ texture and prevents clumping.

Cooking Techniques for Chinese Vermicelli


Stir-frying is a popular method for cooking Chinese vermicelli, allowing the noodles to absorb flavors from sauces and other ingredients.

Prepare Ingredients: Before cooking, have all your ingredients ready, including vegetables, protein, and sauce.

Heat the Pan: Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat and add a small amount of oil.

Cook the Protein and Vegetables: Add your protein (chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu, etc.) and cook until done. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add vegetables to the pan and stir-fry until tender.

Add the Vermicelli: Add the soaked or boiled vermicelli to the pan and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes, mixing well with the vegetables.

Combine and Season: Return the cooked protein to the pan and add your sauce. Toss everything together until well combined and heated through. Serve immediately.


Chinese vermicelli is a fantastic addition to soups, adding texture and substance to the broth.

Prepare the Broth: Start with a flavorful broth of your choice (chicken, beef, vegetable, etc.).

Ingredients: Add your protein and vegetables to the broth and cook until tender.

Add Vermicelli: Add the soaked vermicelli to the hot broth and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the noodles are heated through.

Serve: Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with fresh herbs, such as cilantro or green onions, if desired.


Vermicelli salads are refreshing and light, perfect for a healthy meal or side dish.

Prepare the Vermicelli: Soak or boil the vermicelli as described above, then drain and rinse.

Prepare Salad Ingredients: Chop fresh vegetables, herbs, and any protein you want to include (such as grilled chicken or shrimp).

Mix the Salad: In a large bowl, combine the vermicelli, vegetables, and protein. Toss with a light dressing, such as a mixture of lime juice, fish sauce, and a touch of sugar.

Serve: Serve the salad chilled or at room temperature, garnished with chopped peanuts or sesame seeds for added crunch.

Popular Chinese Vermicelli Dishes

1. Japchae:

A Korean dish often enjoyed in China, Japchae features sweet potato vermicelli stir-fried with a variety of vegetables and meat in a savory-sweet soy-based sauce.

2. Ants Climbing a Tree:

This Sichuan dish consists of ground pork cooked with mung bean vermicelli in a spicy, flavorful sauce. The name comes from the way the ground pork clings to the noodles, resembling ants climbing a tree.

3. Hot and Sour Soup:

A classic Chinese soup, hot and sour soup often includes mung bean vermicelli, tofu, mushrooms, and a spicy, tangy broth.

4. Spring Rolls:

Vermicelli is a common filling in both fresh and fried spring rolls. It adds a satisfying texture and helps bind other ingredients together.

Tips for Cooking Perfect Vermicelli

1. Avoid Overcooking:

Overcooked vermicelli can become mushy and lose its desirable texture. Follow soaking or boiling times carefully and taste test for doneness.

2. Use Cold Water:

Rinsing vermicelli with cold water after cooking helps stop the cooking process and prevents the noodles from becoming sticky.

3. Separate Noodles:

If vermicelli clumps together after cooking, gently separate the strands with your fingers or a fork before adding to your dish.

4. Add Flavor:

Vermicelli absorbs flavors well, so don’t be afraid to use bold sauces and seasonings. Marinating the noodles in a bit of sauce before cooking can also enhance their flavor.

Storing and Reheating Cooked Vermicelli


Store cooked vermicelli in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. To prevent sticking, toss the noodles with a small amount of oil before storing.


Reheat cooked vermicelli by briefly soaking in hot water, microwaving, or stir-frying with a little oil. Avoid overcooking during reheating to maintain texture.

Nutritional Benefits of Chinese Vermicelli

Low in Fat and Calories:

Chinese vermicelli is naturally low in fat and calories, making it an excellent choice for those looking to maintain a healthy diet.


Most vermicelli is gluten-free, suitable for individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. Always check the packaging to ensure there are no added gluten-containing ingredients.

Versatile and Nutritious:

Pairing vermicelli with a variety of vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy sauces can create balanced, nutritious meals that are both delicious and satisfying.


Chinese vermicelli is a versatile and delicious ingredient that can enhance a wide range of dishes, from stir-fries and soups to salads and spring rolls. By understanding the different types of vermicelli, how to properly prepare and cook them, and the various ways to incorporate them into your meals, you can enjoy the unique texture and flavor of these noodles. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a kitchen novice, this guide provides all the information you need to master the art of cooking Chinese vermicelli and create delectable dishes that will impress family and friends.

Additional Recipes and Variations

1. Vermicelli Stir-Fry with Shrimp and Vegetables


  • 200g mung bean vermicelli
  • 200g shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish


Soak the mung bean vermicelli in warm water for 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and onion, and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the shrimp and cook until pink and opaque, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the bell pepper and carrot, and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are tender-crisp.

Add the drained vermicelli, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Toss to combine and heat through.

Drizzle with sesame oil and garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.

2. Cold Vermicelli Salad with Chicken


  • 200g rice vermicelli
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 cucumber, julienned
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped


  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 red chili, thinly sliced


Soak the rice vermicelli in warm water for 10 minutes until soft. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and red chili to make the dressing.

In a large bowl, combine the vermicelli, shredded chicken, cucumber, carrot, mint, and cilantro.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.

Sprinkle with chopped peanuts before serving.

3. Spicy Vermicelli Soup with Tofu


  • 200g mung bean vermicelli
  • 1 block firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 liter vegetable broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 bok choy, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced


Soak the mung bean vermicelli in warm water for 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the cubed tofu and cook for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned.

Pour in the vegetable broth, soy sauce, and chili paste. Bring to a boil.

Add the bok choy and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender.

Add the soaked vermicelli and green onions. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until heated through.

Serve the soup hot, garnished with additional green onions if desired.

Cooking Tips and Troubleshooting

1. Adjusting Cooking Times:

Cooking times for vermicelli can vary based on the type and brand. Always check the package instructions and adjust cooking times as needed. Taste the noodles frequently to ensure they reach the desired texture.

2. Preventing Stickiness:

To prevent vermicelli from sticking together, rinse the noodles with cold water after cooking and toss them with a small amount of oil if not using immediately. This helps separate the strands and maintain their texture.

3. Enhancing Flavor:

Marinate the vermicelli in your sauce of choice for a few minutes before cooking to enhance flavor. This is particularly useful for stir-fry dishes where the noodles absorb the flavors of the sauce and other ingredients.

4. Managing Portions:

Vermicelli expands significantly after soaking or cooking. Measure portions carefully to avoid preparing more than needed. One bundle of dried vermicelli typically yields enough for 2-3 servings.

Nutritional Considerations

1. Balancing Meals:

While vermicelli is low in fat and calories, it is primarily a source of carbohydrates. Balance your meals by adding lean proteins (like chicken, tofu, or shrimp) and a variety of vegetables to ensure a well-rounded, nutritious dish.

2. Gluten-Free Options:

For those with gluten sensitivities, ensure that the vermicelli and all accompanying sauces and ingredients are gluten-free. Most vermicelli is naturally gluten-free, but always check labels to confirm.

3. Low Sodium Alternatives:

Traditional Asian sauces like soy sauce can be high in sodium. Opt for low-sodium versions or use alternative seasonings like fresh herbs, lime juice, and garlic to reduce sodium content while maintaining flavor.

Cultural Significance of Chinese Vermicelli

1. Historical Roots:

Chinese vermicelli has a long history in Asian cuisine, with its origins dating back thousands of years. It has been a staple in Chinese households due to its affordability, versatility, and ease of preparation.

2. Symbolic Meaning:

In Chinese culture, vermicelli is often associated with longevity and prosperity. It is commonly served during celebrations and festivals, particularly during Chinese New Year and birthdays, as its long strands symbolize a long life.

3. Regional Variations:

Different regions in China have unique ways of preparing and enjoying vermicelli. For example, in Sichuan cuisine, it is often paired with spicy flavors, while in Cantonese cuisine, it might be served in a mild, savory broth.

Exploring International Variations

1. Vietnamese Bun Cha:

A popular Vietnamese dish, Bun Cha features vermicelli served with grilled pork, fresh herbs, and a tangy dipping sauce. The vermicelli provides a light base that complements the rich flavors of the grilled meat and fresh ingredients.

2. Thai Pad Woon Sen:

In Thai cuisine, Pad Woon Sen is a stir-fried glass noodle dish with vegetables, eggs, and a choice of protein. The noodles soak up the savory-sweet flavors of the sauce, creating a satisfying and flavorful dish.

3. Korean Japchae:

Japchae is a Korean dish that uses sweet potato vermicelli stir-fried with a variety of vegetables and often beef or other proteins. The noodles have a chewy texture and absorb the soy-based sauce, making them a delicious component of this dish.

See Also: Making Vermicelli with Duck Blood – Just 6 Steps!


Chinese vermicelli is a versatile and nutritious ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, from stir-fries and soups to salads and spring rolls. By understanding the different types of vermicelli, proper preparation techniques, and various cooking methods, you can create delicious meals that highlight the unique texture and flavor of these noodles. Whether you’re exploring traditional Chinese recipes or international variations, vermicelli is a valuable addition to your culinary repertoire, offering endless possibilities for creative and satisfying dishes.



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