MENA Cooking Club: Iraqi Sweet Vermicelli


It’s that time of the month again, when MENA cooking club members (join in!) reveal their dishes.

The cuisine of Iraq was the challenge this month, hosted by the lovely Maryam from Maryam’s culinary wonders.

I missed last months challenge Iran due to poor planning and laziness. This month wasn’t much better, I left making my dish until Monday afternoon!

Halawat Sha’riyya: sweet golden vermicelli


As usual, we were assigned 3 dishes to choose from:-
Okra stew I’ve already had and I very much like however, my other half isn’t much of a fan = a non-starter.
The other savoury dish broiled salmon with pomegranate sauce and yellow rice wasn’t really my bag as I don’t particular like fish.
Dessert it was and let me tell you it didn’t disappoint.


The flavour was that classic middle eastern pairing, rose and cardamom, much like Bahraini Halwa and every other middle eastern sweet.


What set this halwa apart was the golden colour (ok in my case that would  dark amber – I promise I didn’t burn my vermicelli) and texture of the soft, glossy, sticky and chewy noodles.


As usual I made a few changes to the halwa recipe to suit my needs.

First of all I made half batch, if you had eaten Qalb El Louz in recent days you would understand why. Apart from butter which I replaced with ghee and used 1/2 tablespoon instead of 3/4 tablespoon, I sort of halved the remaining ingredient quantities.

I had almonds leftover from….you guessed it Qalb El Louz therefore I used them in place of walnuts and pistachio. I don’t recommend you do the same unless, like me you’re making this at the last-minute and don’t want to spend money on more nuts.

Walnuts and pistachios have tons more flavour than almonds. You can always toast the almonds beforehand, did I mention this dessert was a rush job?! or an easier option, buy toasted almonds? no, add a dash of halal pure almond extract when you add the water.


My sweet vermicelli is a relatively quick (under 30 mins) dessert and satisfies even the most exhausted sweet tooth.

Goes well with coffee (I like it this weak) sprinkled with more ground cardamon.

Halawat Sha’riyya

Iraqi sweet golden vermicelli
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Total Time: 30 min


  1. 1/2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
  2. 1/2 tablespoon sunflower oil
  3. 2 ounces / 57 grams (about 3 nests) vermicelli
  4. 1 cups hot water
  5. Pinch salt
  6. 1/3 cup sugar ( i used homemade vanilla sugar)
  7. 1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom
  8. 1 teaspoons rose water
  9. 1/3 cup almonds (or walnuts), roughly chopped
  10. 1/2 tablespoon coarsely ground almonds (or pistachios), for garnish


  1. In a heavy pot over medium heat, melt the ghee with the oil. Lightly crush the vermicelli nests between your fingers, add pieces to the pot, and cook them, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully pour in the hot water and add the salt. Stir, bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the noodles start to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, cardamom, rose water, and nuts. Stir until the sugar crystals dissolve. Let the mixture simmer, covered, on medium-low, gently stirring 2 or 3 times, until moisture is absorbed, noodles look glossy, and the sugar starts to caramelize and stick to the bottom of the pot, 6 to 10 minutes.
  3. Spoon the noodles onto a flat platter, evening the surface with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with ground nuts, divide into portions, and serve warm.


  1. If using almonds, lightly toast them beforehand for more flavour or add a dash halal pure almond extract to the pot when you add the water.
  2. Leftovers may be refrigerated and then heated for 1 minute in the microwave.

Did you know? Archaeologists have found evidence from excavations at Jarmo in northeastern Iraq that pistachio nuts were a common food as early as 6750 BC. wiki

MENA Cooking Club: Iraqi Sweet Vermicelli
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MENA Cooking Club: Iraqi Sweet Vermicelli

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