Rice is the standard “background” dish in many Middle Eastern menus. It’s often cooked quite plain, as a foil to the intense colors and pungent flavors of fresh vegetables and meat. Or it might appear all dressed up with spices and protein-rich grains, as in majadra, a typical lentil and rice dish. This recipe of plain white rice threaded through with golden-brown vermicelli noodle is eaten all over the Middle East.
Children especially love it, maybe because it’s soothing but not at all bland, and attractive with its textured appearance. Children are just as susceptible to visual appeal in food as grownups, after all. But adults like this dish plenty too.You’ll find it in in homes and in little eateries where homely dishes like baba ganoush and shakshuka are served daily, to the comfort of people working in the neighborhood. Rice with noodles needs an hour, but ost of that time, the rice is cooking or resting. Easy and delicious, so when you’re considering a rice side dish, try this one out.
The last step requires covering the pan with a clean kitchen towel. This is an old trick to gather up excess condensation, so the rice comes out from the pot in perfectly-cooked, separate grains. I like to do it because, apart from its utilitarian purpose, it makes me feel connected to traditional cooks, present and past, of the MIddle East.
Rice With Vermicelli Noodles
1-1/3 cups basmati rice, rinsed and soaked in cold water for 1/2 hour.
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1/2 cup vermicelli noodles
2-1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
Drain the rice thoroughly.
Heat the oil or butter; add the vermicelli. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until the noodles are a light brown color – 3 minutes or so. Keep a sharp eye on them; they can burn in a second.
Add the stock and bring it to a boil, cooking it for 3 minutes. Add the rice and salt.
Bring the rice to a boil, then reduce heat to the minimum and cover the pot. Cook 15 minutes.
Turn heat off. Have a clean kitchen towel ready at hand and remove the pot lid, covering the pot with the towel and quickly covering the pot and towel with the lid. Let it sit 10 minutes. Remove the rice from the pot with a fork, to fluff it up.
The festive version pictured above includes 250 grams – 8 oz. ground meat sauteed in olive oil with one small onion, 1/2 teaspoon cumin or other favorite spice, and parsley. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring, until meat is cooked through, and spread over the rice before serving.
- Basmati rice gives the most delicately-texured result, but if there’s none available, long-grain rice does very well too. In that case, omit the soaking and simply rinse the rise well, drain it, and add it to the browned noodles.
- If you don’t have stock on hand, mince 2 garlic cloves or 1 small onion (or both) and saute a minute or two in the heated fat before adding the noodles.
More tasty Middle-Eastern recipes from Green Prophet:
Photos by Miriam Kresh.