Egyptian rice رز بالشعرية (roz bel shareya) is one of the staples of Egyptian cuisine. This popular rice cooked with vermicelli noodles is a hearty dish that pairs wonderfully with many recipes, but is typically eaten alongside meat (such as lamb) or vegetables.
Simply put, Egyptian rice with vermicelli is delicious. I first experienced it while growing up in the Middle East. There was a small, nameless restaurant in an alley a little behind where I lived. In it they cooked rotisserie chicken, and served it with Egyptian rice and a bit of salad. And absolutely nothing else. (Seriously, that was the entire menu.)
What is Egyptian Rice
Egyptian rice, as the name may imply, is a rice dish from Egypt. Egyptian rice is usually prepared with short or medium grain rice and short vermicelli (slightly different from the vermicelli noodles popular in North America). The rice is typically cooked in chicken or vegetable broth.
Egyptians often refer to it as roz bel shareya (رز بالشعرية), though in other parts of the Middle East, it’s referred to as roz Masry, which simply means “Egyptian rice” in Arabic.
Note: This rice is different from roz Maamar, which is a sort of baked Egyptian rice.
- Short vermicelli
- Chicken broth
- Egyptian rice
How to make Egyptian Rice with Vermicelli
Prepare the rice
In a large bowl, wash and rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Soak the washed rice for about 30 minutes. Drain well. Don’t leave the rice soaking too long, or it may become mushy.
Cook rice with vermicelli
In a large saucepan or pot, melt the ghee over medium heat, add the vermicelli. Stir using a wooden spoon for a few minutes until the vermicelli becomes golden brown. Be sure to keep an eye on the vermicelli as it can burn quite easily.
Add the broth and salt. Stir gently and then allow the mixture to come to a boil. Add the drained rice, stirring occasionally. Adding the rice will drop the temperature of the mixture, so once the mixture returns to a boil, turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the water is completely absorbed. Remove the pot from heat, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
Check the rice has been cooked, fluff it with a fork, and then transfer to a plate for serving. Enjoy!
- Make sure to soak the washed rice for 30 minutes. If skipped, the rice will not have the desired softness and may become too mushy.
- Vermicelli can burn easily. Make sure to stir it around and not leave it over heat for too long by itself.
- If once you’re done cooking, you feel the rice needs a bit more time, add a touch more stock and cover for a few more minutes.
- Don’t forget to season to taste!
What to do if your rice is mushy
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do here. This means that your rice was soaked for too long, or there was too much liquid used when cooking the rice. While you can’t fix this issue, you can distract from it: try pairing the rice with some sort of curry or sauce. The gravy or curry can help hide the texture of the rice (to an extent).
What kind of rice to use
There are two main types of rice used in Middle Eastern cooking. The first is basmati rice. That’s not what we’re using here. Egyptian rice is traditionally made with short grain rice or medium grain rice (depending where you are!).
However, I recommend using medium grain rice as it’s a little easier to work with. Medium grain rice is also what’s commonly used for popular Egyptian recipes such as Koshari, which mixes the rice with chickpeas, pasta, tomato sauce, and fried onions (yes, it’s quite the dish!).
There aren’t many substitutions to be aware of as this is a simple rice dish. However, here are a few that may be useful to you:
If you can’t get a hold of authentic Egyptian rice or a Middle Eastern rice, you can also use calrose (it’s a medium grain), which is available at most supermarkets.
While I suggest using a medium grain rice for this, you technically can make Egyptian rice with vermicelli using a long grain rice (such as basmati). However, there is something to be aware of here – long grain rice requires more liquid to cook than medium grain rice, so there’s a good chance that your rice may end up a little stickier than is ideal. But if sticky rice doesn’t bother you, that’s another option (in case you want to save on picking up another type of rice).
This recipe is made using Middle Eastern short vermicelli, which is slightly different to the rice noodles that are often referred to as vermicelli in the West. Middle Eastern vermicelli is a wheat-based noodle. You’ll usually find it broken up into one or two-inch pieces (hence the “short”). It’s usually available at Middle Eastern grocery stores.
If you can’t find short vermicelli, you can swap it with angel hair pasta (make sure to break the pasta up into little pieces, and be mindful of any additional cooking directions).
Ghee is preferred for this recipe as it adds a nice flavor. However, if you’d rather not use it, it can be swapped for vegetable oil or another fat like butter.
If you’re looking to make this recipe vegetarian friendly, the chicken broth can be swapped for vegetable stock.
This is a staple rice dish so you can serve it alongside almost anything. From Egyptian stew recipes, to Indian curries, Egyptian rice is a versatile side dish. You can even pair it with Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken or your favorite beef recipe.
My (Egyptian) wife’s favorite pairing for this is alongside homemade molokhia.
This rice can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four days. Egyptian rice can be frozen for up to one month. Make sure to thaw completely before you eat it!
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Like most rice recipes, this doesn’t require any specialized tools. I’d recommend a nice pot or Dutch oven to cook with though (definitely easier than using a large skillet).
Egyptian rice with vermicelli (or “roz bel shareya”) is a delicious and versatile dish. It’s simple but hearty, and the perfect accompaniment to a wide range of main courses. I’ve been eating this since I was a child, and it’s still one of my favorite ways to prepare rice.
And that’s it. That’s everything you need to know to prepare Egyptian rice. Tried it? Let me know in the comments below. Belhana wa shifa! (That’s the Egyptian Arabic equivalent of saying bon appetit.)Print