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Rice vermicelli (Recipe: bun gao noodle salad)

An updated post from the archives, with a new photo.


My name is Lydia, and I'm a noodle-holic.

You know the drill.

"Hi, Lydia."

If there's a Noodles Anonymous chapter nearby, please let me know. I need it. I have never, ever, met a noodle I didn't love. I'd like to think I'm picky, like a chocoholic who eschews Hershey bars for cacao with a pedigree. But when it comes to noodles, I'm not picky, and my pantry proves it.

One shelf stocks Italian pasta: rotini, gemelli, cavatappi, spaghetti (much of it low-carb these days). Farfalle and lasagna. Orzo and teeny weeny ditalini. On another shelf, there's a stash of Asian noodles, with exotic names like banh pho, lo mein, banh trang, cellophane noodles (translucent, made from mung beans) and rice vermicelli.

Wait a minute.

Vermicelli — isn't that Italian? What's it doing on the Asian shelf?

Popular in every Asian cuisine, rice vermicelli, a.k.a. rice sticks, a.k.a. mi fen or mee fun in Chinese, sen mee in Thai, maifun in Japanese, bihoon in Tagalog, banh hoi in Vietnamese and bee hoon in Malay, probably originated in China, which has been called the mother cuisine of all Asian cooking.

Product labeling is inconsistent; what's called rice vermicelli comes in a variety of thicknesses, from thread-like to the flattened ribbons resembling fettucini, commonly used in making pad thai. You want to buy the thin noodles, the ones that look like Italian vermicelli (thinner than spaghetti). Shop with your eyes, and read the ingredients on the label (always listed in English, for packaged food sold in the US) to make sure what you're buying is made from rice and water.

Dried rice noodles need a bit of a presoak, in warm tap water for 15-20 minutes. Then, drop the noodles into boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Rinse under cold water, and drain, and you're good to go for mee siam, prawn and coconut laksa, Singapore rice noodles or crab-filled summer rolls.

Bun gao noodle salad (rice noodle salad with chicken)

With the components cooked, shredded and chopped, and stored in the fridge, this main-course salad takes only minutes to assemble, and it's one of my favorite warm-weather meals. You can substitute grilled pork, shrimp, beef or tofu for the chicken. Serves 6.


1-1/2 lb rice vermicelli
Leftover cooked chicken (1 lb for 6 people), or store-bought rotisserie chicken
2 carrots
1 English (seedless) cucumber
3/4 small head of iceberg lettuce, shredded thinly
Handful of spearmint leaves
1/2 lb mung bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
Chopped peanuts (dry roasted, unsalted), for topping -- a few tablespoons

Nuoc cham OR
Chinese peanut dressing, thinned with water to desired consistency


Fill a bowl with hot water. Soak the rice vermicelli for 15 minutes, until flexible. Drain. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in the rice vermicelli, and cook for 1 minute. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again.

Add the cooked rice vermicelli to a large bowl. Grate the carrots and cucumber with a box grater (on the side with the largest holes), and add to the noodles. Add the lettuce, bean sprouts and mint leaves. Top with chicken. Toss with nuoc cham or peanut dressing. Top with chopped peanuts and serve. (If assembling the salad ahead, don’t add the dressing until you are ready to serve.)

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Also in The Perfect Pantry:

Faux pho
Nime chow (goi cuon)
Salmon-pesto potstickers
Vietnamese rice stick noodle salad with caramelized shrimp
Pad Thai

Need more ideas for how to create salads with pizzazz? Get Dress Up Your Salad, my e-book packed with easy mix-and-match recipes, full-color photos and a few fun videos. Exciting salad recipes from everyday ingredients can be just one click away, on any computer, tablet or smart phone, with the FREE Kindle Reading app. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Hi, I´m Ximena and I´m a noodleholic.
I try to keep the shapes down to a manageable minimum, but it´s hard, specially with the Asian stuff, which is just too much fun.

Now I cannot call myself a noodle-holic since my noodle pantry-stock and selection pales in comparison to yours :D

Yes, I usually call it mifen or bee hoon back home in Singapore.In Taiwan, Hsinchu is famous for its mifen too, and largely the texture is different due to the the forces of the "wind" (climate)and how it dries the noodles during noodle-making process.

Guess what? I tried making mee siam again (recently) with angel hair pasta and it can be good too!

I think I'm on the wagon for various reasons, but those sound so good I'm tempted to make a list and use up my leftover chicken with that recipe.


I love noodles too and was craving it yesterday! I know it more commonly as bihoon in TAgalog :).

Hi, I'm Sandie, and I'm a noodle-holic as well. I love all kinds of pasta & starches, and carbohydrates no longer intimidate me...

Lovely post, Lydia. And the recipe is right up my alley, although I'm unfamiliar with "mung" bean sprouts. Are they just regular bean sprouts?

I'm with you! I could eat noodles every night of the week.

I think rice vermicelli is the perfect way to go when the weather gets warmer. No need for expanding pants! Koreans use a noodle that is made with mung bean for recipes like chop chae.

So after I week of macaroni, I thought I'd licked the noodle habit, but now you've got me going again. Pasta for dinner! I could do serious damage with rice vermicelli.

Hi, my name is Dani and I'm a noodleholic. I have a very similar recipe to this on my meal plan this week and it is scrumptious.

I have to restrain myself- every time my husband asks, What do you feel like having for dinner? I want to say, Pasta! Noodles! What else?

Vermicelli is an Italian word? Hehe I have never thought of it this way. I was just thinking of making 'fried bee hoon' yesterday, this post must be a sign! hehe

Ximena, Tigerfish, Veron, Sandie, Pam, TW, Dani, Karina: we have the making of a great noodle-holics support group! Glad to know I'm not the only one.

Tigerfish, thanks for the information about Taiwanese noodles. I didn't realize that the wind would affect the texture. So interesting!

Mae, I have to limit the rice noodles in my diet, too, because they do affect blood sugar differently than wheat noodles. But when the weather is hot, this is the noodle dish I crave more than any other.

Veron, is bihoon the general word for noodles or for a specific dish?

Sandie, mung bean sprouts are the "fat" crunchy sprouts that you can find in every supermarket produce section these days. (Not the thin sprouts like alfalfa.)

Karina, I'm the same way. My husband isn't quite the noodle-holic that I am.

Noobcook, yes, it's funny that even the packaging on noodles uses the word vermicelli -- I wonder who first thought of it?

I was thinking of making rice noodles yesterday. Now I regret dropping the ball on it. That's a very enticing recipe!

Hi There

I just stumbled upon your blog and think it is an excellent read for foodies and especially like the photos and design of the blog.I started off as a blogger myself and realise the importance of a good clean design like you have here. I have now bookmarked it for myself to read and have added you to our new list of "all the food blogs in the world" on www.ifoods.tv which we have been compiling for the last month! Hopefully it will send you some traffic in the long run. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on food so keep up the good work and talk soon. Cheers

This salad sounds great! I'm always looking for new uses for these noodles-I have some that I'm making into spring rolls tonight!

haha yes I'll join the group with you! Always remember my first pad thai: seemed like such an odd name but then was just out of site so good.

Sher, I think you'll like this one -- you do such great things with pasta.

Niall, thanks so much.

Rebecca, spring rolls are my favorite, but this salad is like an exploded spring roll -- same ingredients, presented a bit differently.

Mykitchen, welcome to our support group! I'm still blown away by a really gread pad Thai.

Sign me up for the noodle-holic support group. There's a whole shelf in my pantry dedicated to noodles. Barilla recently came out with mini pasta shapes that are sooo adorable! :)

Amy, welcome to our group (isn't it a nice support group? I wish we could actually do it in person!). Your pantry sounds like a place where I would be very happy. I haven't seen the Barilla mini shapes; will look for that at my market.

Hi, My name is Diane and I'm a noodle-holic too. I'll join you when the NA chapters start.
I'm afraid to tell you how many types of noodles I have, it's almost excessive compulsive. But I'm glad to know that I've found a noodle kindred spirit in you, Lydia.

As far as Bun noodles go in Viet foods, there are so many, it can get crazy. Down here, many fresh noodles shops are experimenting with different sizes and types. Bun noodles are never ending. I love banh hoi too, they're so cute and so thinly weaved together. It's an amazing sheet of noodle love!

Diane, you will be most welcome in our support group! I'm so jealous -- wish I had a fresh noodle shop within hailing distance of here. Although, if I did, I'd be even more addicted... if that's possible...

Problem Making Noodles.

Hi. I continue to try and make Vermicelli noodles like they do in the local Vietnamese restaurant. Their noodles turn out white, springy, and tasty.

I bought DONGGUAN RICE STICK and followed your instructions above. 15 min soak in warm water and then a 1 minute in boiling water. Then drain and rinse in cool water. My noodles turn out thin, gooey, cold, and tasteless.

What am I doing wrong??????


Drew, I'm completely baffled. I'll email to you about this.

Lydia, I made this tonight -- used cucumber, baby white carrots, rice stick noodles, chicken that I marinated last night and baked and then shredded up, and just a bunch of torn mint and Thai basil leaves...oh...my...gosh...YUM. I had to eat two plates of it and now I am totally full. It was delicious. Thanks for the great recipe!

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