This Taiwanese style vermicelli stir fry recipe is one that my grandma used to make. Typically, we'd have this for lunch as it's quick, nutritious and filling. These noodles are extremely fragrant, filled with amazing textures and a second helping is pretty much always a guarantee!
I'm a huge fan of noodle stir-fries that are packed with not just flavour but abundant in vegetables and protein. Such as my Chicken Noodle Stir Fry. This dish is no different and I think you're going to love it!
If you've never tried dried shrimp skins before, you're in for an (umami-packed) treat!
- Dried shrimp skin (xia pi 蝦皮) are teeny tiny whole shrimp skin (or shells) that's been sun-dried and have a very rich umami flavour profile. Can be found at most Asian supermarkets. I'll talk more about this in its own section below.
- Dried vermicelli noodles are thin rice noodles and nowadays, can be found at Coles and Woolies (Australian major supermarkets)! Otherwise, any Asian supermarket will have these in stock!
- Shallots are a little sweeter and more subtle in flavour compared to the regular brown onions. Shallots tend to cost way more so I only ever use it for special recipes 🙂
- Dried shiitake mushrooms trump fresh shiitake in terms of aroma and flavour any day! If you've been to Taiwan (or other Asian countries) or just frequent Asian supermarkets you'll notice high quality dried shiitake can cost in the high hundreds per kilo! One general tip, avoid buying dried shiitake mushrooms that have been sliced already. They're way way way less fragrant compared to whole ones.
- Pork mince is the traditional choice of protein for this vermicelli stir fry. Can substitute with chicken mince or even beef. Although if you want the real deal, use pork 😉
- Shaoxing wine is a cooking rice wine that adds depth to a dish. Substitute: dry sherry.
Step by step instructions
Chop, soak, slice, get everything ready
If you're familiar with my recipes, then you'll know what I'm going to say: prep everything first! Stir-fries are all about timing and you need everything ready within arm's reach as soon as you turn the stove on. So rehydrate the noodles, shiitake mushrooms, chop and slice everything.
Saute and create flavour
To begin, first saute the shiitake mushrooms, shallots, garlic and dried shrimp skin in a decent amount of oil (3 tablespoon). This step is very important to release and develop the flavours of these ingredients.
Get them nice and golden to maximise the potential of these ingredients! Your kitchen should be smelling aaaamazing at this point.
Add pork mince, sugar, soy sauce and shaoxing wine and saute until pork is brown and the sauce reduced and caramelly.
Now, time to add cabbage and carrots. Continue to saute on high heat until veggies are soft and tasting delicious. Like collage image #6 below.
Time to add soaked vermicelli noodles, a bit more soy sauce, salt, white pepper and reserved shiitake mushrooms soaking water. Reduce the heat down to medium-low and stir fry with two spatulas until well mixed and all the liquids have been absorbed.
Turn the heat off, mix through finely sliced spring onions to oomph up the final dish.
The shiitake soaking water is a fantastic flavour booster to any dish! So never tip it down the drain!
Dry and not saucy
It's important to note that this vermicelli stir fry is supposed to be dry and not saucy. Also, as I type this up, I just realised this dish is a little similar to an authentic Yaki Udon (udon stir fry) I've shared!
Now that I think about it, this makes sense as Taiwan was under Japanese rule for 50 years (my grandpa was educated by the Japanese growing up in Taiwan. He used to sing in Japanese in his sleep!) Interinfluences were bound to happen.
Let's talk dried shrimp skin
Super tiny shrimp that have been sun-dried and adds a unique seafood umami taste and aroma to a dish. After sun drying, all that's left is the crispy shells (since it's so tiny).
Dried shrimp skins (xia pi 蝦皮) are used in a variety of dishes (soups, stir-fries, etc) such as this vermicelli stir fry and cabbage stir fries! It completely elevates a plain cabbage stir-fry (I'll share a recipe soon!)
If this is your first time buying, below is a picture of what it typically comes in. They're really small and super light in weight.
Always store dried shrimp skins in airtight containers (such as a jar) to keep their aroma from escaping and refrigerate.
Dried shrimp (蝦米) vs dried shrimp skin (蝦皮)
Note, these are different to dried shrimp (xia mi '蝦米') which are larger, whole dried shrimp (with flesh and all), orangey in colour and requires soaking before use.
Similarly, dried shrimp are extremely versatile and can be used in rice, stir-fries, braises, soups etc such as radish cakes (蘿蔔糕, typical dim sum/yum cha dish) and nuo mi fan 糯米飯 (super yum, flavourful Chinese sticky rice).
If you really want to compare, dried shrimp skins are the economical versions of dried shrimp! Also, since dried shrimp includes the flesh, they have a rich, sweet umami-ness to it.
Tips for making this dish perfect every time
- Take the time to get the aromatics nice and golden. We're talking the shiitake mushrooms, the garlic, shallots and the dried shrimp skin. This will really awaken and intensify their flavours, making this stir fry absolutely delicious!
- Prepare, chop, slice, soak before you start cooking. No last-minute, scrambling, looking for ingredients here!
- Finely slice the cabbage and cut carrots into thin matchsticks. You want the vegetables to somewhat mirror the noodles (in shape) for even cooking and so you get a bit of everything in each mouthful.
- Use two spatulas to stir the vermicelli noodles through the rest of the ingredients. This will make the process much easier and avoid excessive noodle breakage. The noodles will inevitably break but we don't want to turn it into mush!
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you 🙂
Happy cooking! - Gen
Vermicelli Stir Fry (Taiwanese Style)
- 200 g /7oz dried vermicelli noodles soak according to packet instructions
- 250 g /½pound pork mince
- ¼ cabbage finely sliced, about 3 large handfuls
- 1 carrot cut into thin matchsticks
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms rehydrated, thinly sliced, reserve soaking water
- 1 large shallot finely sliced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup dried shrimp skin (note 1)
- 3 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine substitute: dry sherry
- 1 spring onion finely sliced
- 1½ teaspoon brown sugar
- 3 tablespoon neutral tasting oil eg. canola or grapeseed oil
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- Add ½ cup of boiling water to shiitake mushrooms in a bowl, cover and soak for 10 minutes until rehydrated. In the meantime, slice and prepare the remaining ingredients. Reserve shiitake mushrooms soaking water.
- When ready to cook, add oil and shiitake mushrooms into a large pan or wok. Saute on medium-high heat until lightly golden and aromatic. About 2 minutes. Add shallots, garlic and dried shrimp skin. Saute until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
- Add pork mince, 2 tablespoon of soy sauce, shaoxing wine and sugar. Saute on high heat until pork is browned and sauce has been mostly reduced.
- Add cabbage and carrots. Stir fry until soft and sweet. About 4 minutes.
- Add soaked vermicelli noodles, remaining tablespoon of soy sauce, salt, white pepper and reserved shiitake mushrooms soaking water (note 2). Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir fry with 2 spatulas for even mixing. About 3 minutes.
- By now liquids should have been fully absorbed and the pan is sizzling. Add and mix through the spring onions for about 1 minute.
- Serve immediately!