These vermicelli noodle bowls with chicken combine tender vermicelli rice noodles, marinated pan-seared boneless chicken thighs, fresh vegetables, and a sweet chili dressing all jumbled together into a healthy meal that can be on the table in just 35 minutes. Faster than delivery.
Inspired by my favorite order whenever I get a Vietnamese noodle takeout, I tried to get this as close to the real deal as I could. Using chicken thighs is key so that their juiciness adds a kind of second dressing to the noodles.–Elena Silcock
☞ Table of Contents
Vermicelli Noodle Bowls FAQs
What is vermicelli?
In Asia they’re noodles. In Italy it’s pasta. They both reflect separate culinary cultures that developed in parallel – at the same time. We can’t attribute the origination to one location or another.
Rice noodles originated during the Chinese Qin dynasty (259-210 b.c) and have been an integral part of the cuisine there since. At the same time, in what is now Italy and the Mediterranean, people used wheat to make pasta, which is also a staple in those cultures. Vermicelli is an Italian word that means “little worms” but the noodle/pasta is used nowadays in many, many cuisines and dishes – sometimes made with rice, sometimes with wheat.
What else can I make with vermicelli noodles?
Rice noodles are pretty standard fare in Vietnamese cuisine, which is a very good thing. If you love this chicken vermicelli, give this Vietnamese beef and rice noodle salad a try, or this version that’s made with turkey meatballs. Of course, we’d never say no to a small bowl of authentic Vietnamese pho.
Can I boil vermicelli like spaghetti?
Nope. Vermicelli is fine and cooks very quickly. It should be cooked precisely as instructed below, or you’ll end up with a gummy, unappetizing, stuck-together mess.
Vermicelli Noodle Bowls with Chicken
For the sweet chili dressing
- 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
- 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/2 cup mild vegetable oil (or swap in a little sesame oil for some of the vegetable oil)
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 large garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chicken and vermicelli noodles
- Mild vegetable oil for frying
- 6 (about 1 1/2 lbs total) boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 5 ounces (4 nests) vermicelli noodles
- Boiling water
- 7 ounces bean sprouts
- 2 large carrots peeled
- 1 large cucumber
- 1 red chile such as Thai
- 1/2 small bunch fresh cilantro divided
- 1/2 small bunch fresh mint divided
- 3 to 4 tablespoons crispy onions or 1 3/4 ounces (50 g) roasted, salted peanuts for topping
- Lime wedges to serve
Make the sweet chili dressing
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sweet chili sauce, lime juice, oil, soy sauce, and sugar.
- Finely grate or crush the garlic into the dressing, and add the fish sauce. Mix to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Dressing can be made and refrigerated up to 24 hours in advance.
Make the chicken and vermicelli noodles
- Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl and rub with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Cover and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator while you prepare the noodles, or let the chicken marinate for up to 1 day.
- Place the noodles into a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Use a fork to gently tease them out of their nests, then set aside until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until completely cooled. Tip into the large mixing bowl of remaining dressing.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot, then add the chicken thighs in a single layer and fry until cooked through to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), 4 to 6 minutes per side. Set aside on a cutting board and season with a little salt. Slice the chicken thighs.
- Add the bean sprouts to the noodles. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrots and cucumber into ribbons directly into the bowl of noodles – discard the seedy middle of the cucumber.
- Finely chop the red chile and add to the bowl along with the leaves from the herbs. Toss really well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.
☞TESTER TIP: Use your hands or tongs to really toss the noodles and vegetables together well.
- Pile into bowls or on a platter. Arrange the sliced cooked chicken thighs on top. Sprinkle with the remaining fresh herb leaves and crispy onions or peanuts. Serve with lime wedges.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Winner winner chicken dinner! Everything about these vermicelli noodle bowls with chicken is pretty hands on and has many small details, so if there was ever a recipe to make on a date, family night or among friends, this is the meal. Extremely adaptable and the option to use animal protein or leave it out altogether gives a fresh and filling meal anyone would be proud to serve. It also would be great for lunch boxes, picnics and/or a side dish.
It has pretty much everything you really need in a vermicelli noodle dish. I would like it to have more infusion of flavour in the noodle department so I would increase the lime, garlic and hit it with some anchovies and fish sauce to give it a kick. It just needed more saltiness and it just didn’t hit the full on salty, sweet, sour and spicy combination Asian food (especially Vietnamese and Thai) are well known for.
I’m kind of a big sucker for umami-packed Vietnamese noodle dishes that come together easily and allow me to control the volume on the key components. Throw in a bunch of fresh veggies and juicy chicken strips, and you’ve got a winner. I will be making this chicken vermicelli recipe again and again, and anyone who hasn’t made a dressing before from these ingredients is in for a revelation and a treat.
My chicken thighs were on the large side, as were my carrots and my cucumber. The result was a hearty platter of chewy rice noodles tangled up with long strips of carrots and cucumbers, coated in a signature sweet, salty, sour, spicy dressing. 5 minutes was perfect soaking time for the noodles to become tender but not mushy.
I spaced out the prep for this recipe, so after making the dressing in the morning, I was able to let the chicken marinate in the fridge in a ziplock for 8 hours and this really deepened the flavor of the chicken.
Once the dish was completed my wife and I promptly attacked, had seconds, and had enough left for dinner. We paired it with a California sparkling wine – the slight sweetness of the wine was a nice complement to the flavors and also tamed the chiles a bit.
This vermicelli noodle bowl with chicken was restaurant-quality delicious! The balance of seasonings was perfect. I made a slight revision to the recipe by cutting the oil in the marinade from 1/2 cup to 1 tablespoon canola oil plus 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil. It still tasted fantastic.
Originally published June 20, 2022