How to make Nab Vam tapioca strings

This is a super easy recipe to make Hmong Nab Vam strings (pronounced as na va), also known as tapioca worms.  My fellow sister in Christ, Nam Phoumee, taught me how to make this recipe! Thank you Nam Phoumee!!!!!

Nab Vam Ingredients:

  • 1 - 16oz bag of Bot Banh Gio flour (see picture below)
  • 9 cups of cold water
  • food coloring of your choice

Other stuff to get ready

  • a really big pot to cook the mixture
  • a steamer pot with a top pot that has holes and a bottom pot for water (I got mine from a korean store)
  • a big strong spoon (flat or round, preferably a wide spoon)

Let's start!

  1. Mix the flour and the 9 cups of cold water in a pot.  Stir until disolved.  It will resemble white milk.
  2. Add the food coloring of your choice.  I prefer to use the powder food color cos it makes the color brighter.
  3. Place the pot on the stove and cook on high heat and stir.
  4. Watch the pot closely and stir continously.  Within 3-5 minutes the mixture will start to thicken.  Then in the last few stages it will get really thick within a few seconds!!!! This is why it is important to use a big strong spoon. Keep stirring!
  5. When the mixture starts to develop big bubbles and get shiny, turn off the stove.
  6. Stack the steamer pot in the sink.
  7. Pour the hot mixture into the steamer.  Using the big spoon with a downward pressing stroking motion, press the mixture down through the holes.  The tiny strings will fall into the bottom steamer. The technique to this is to press downward and stroke it to the side.
  8. Scoop out the strings and put them in the container of your choice. (see picture above)

Update!!! -- I recently bought a potato ricer to try to make my worms and they turned out beautifully! You should try it out. You can buy it at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.


If you have any questions, please leave me a comment! The key to this is continuous stirring!


Wow Annie, that was fast, wish I have that energy and time on a pc. Thanks for posting this up, from now on I will do it your, 'cause I hate standing in front of the stove squeezing those worm into a hot boiling pot and than take it out to cool it down in cold water.One question, when you sqeeze it through the steamer, do you pour everything in the steamer or do you do a little at a time?Thanks again!

I pour out everything into the steamer and then press down.  It goes by pretty fast.  The mixture is pretty hot so try not to burn yourself!

Thank you.  Trying to find an easy recipe for this.  Never done this myself, but it turned out great.  Thanks so much for your blog :)

thanks again...can u make a video how to make this...thanks...

Hi Mary, I'll do a nab vam tutorial soon! :-)


I use this recipe too. It always turn out great as always.

:-)  Thanks for your comment. 

I make these today and it turn out great but why does it taste salty? 

I guess that could depend on your food coloring.  Have you tried it plain without any food coloring?  Also, make sure your pot is clean so that it doesn't pick up on any other flavors.

The brand is on the salty side.  It was pre-packaged like that.

The flour mix contents salt. The mix is used to make the buns pictured on the bag.

Where do you get the powdered food coloring? Can liquid food coloring be used instead? Did you just stir together the tapioca pearls and worms, plus the dessert coconut milk and ice to make the liquid drink? Is there any place in Madison to buy Nab Vam ready made? Thank you. 

I bought my powder food coloring from Yue Wah market on S. Park Street in madison. 

Yup, you can use the liquid food coloring too.  It is not as colorful or bright as powder, but will do.

Yup, everything I made in this video I just stirred it all together with ice. I also added some coconut shreds and beans that I bought in a jar, but I didn't put that on the video.

You can buy Nab Vam from the Asian Market on Park Street in Madison.  I think they sell that and some hmong food in the deli area.  But I think it tastes better when you make it yourself. Nothing beats home made food.

Hi Annie. i really wanted to try this recipe. I could not find that exact flour. Can I use flour that's used to make dumplings?

You can use any brand of Bot Banh Gio flour.  I know that there are other recipes that uses different flour, but the water measurements are not the same as in this recipe.  

Can I use Bot Bahn Bao flour instead?

Hi Annie, I live in Hawaii & selections are few here. There might be a store that carries this product but I've yet to find one yet.  Is there another substitute I can use for the flour mix to make the nab vam strings?  Or maybe you might know of the mixture content that I can use to make my own?

My cousin uses all purpose flour.  My sister in law uses self rising flour.  Sorry, but I don't know the measurements and water mixture measurements.  I haven't experimented with that yet but if I do get their recipe, I'll post it here.

I always use RICE flour and Topioca flour together, Or you can use pure water chestnut starch (box -227g), 2 TBS topioca + 6 cups water -- this is the best one.If you can't find water chestnut  (not flour), then try the 1st one (rice flour 1cup, and topioca 10 TBS together, with 3 cups water). Good luck.

Will need to give this a try :-)

Hi. Love the video:) but I have a question....when do u add in the food coloring to the pearls? after or during the soaking in cold water!

You can add it at any time. I like to add mine at the end after I drain all the water.

Would you be able to do a quick demonstration on making water chestnut for nab vam? I've searched it online and the receipe that does include water chestnut do not have enough detail for me to understand how to make them. Or at the very least a detailed 'how to'?

Chop the chesnuts into small pieces. Then in a zip lock bag, add some tapioca flour and chestnuts. Shake them up really good. Using a sieve, remove the excess flour. Then boil the chestnuts. When the outer edges are clear, you are done.

i want to add red food coloring to the chestnuts...when do i add them? after i chop the chestnut? or when mixing with the flour? or when i boil it? or when it's done? thanks!

Add the food color to the tapioca starch, then toss the chestnuts.  You can also add food coloring to the boiling hot water but you'll prob need more color.  You can also add food color towards the end when it's done but you may need to let it sit to soak up the color.

I actually add the food coloring to the waterchestnuts themselves and then toss in the tapioca starch.  The color gets absorbed nicely by both the waterchestnuts and tapioca starch.  If you want a thicker layer of tapioca on the waterchestnuts, then after tapping off excess starch mist them lightly with water from a spray bottle and then shake them in the bag again to get more of a coating of tapioca.

Hi you can youtube it its called crispy ruby... thereshoiuld be a thaicooking one to teach you... if you want to you can also cut it smaller...

1 box water chestnut starch (227g), 2 TBS topioca, 6 cups water.--- BEST ONE. I always use this recipe to make

I'll give that a try next time. Thanks for your tip!

1 box water chestnut starch
2 tbs of tapioca starch or pearl?

Wow...u are amazing for having so much time to put this on here...this recipe is so easy to make...I just made some yesterday for my sons b-day party and it turn out great...Keep up the good work and plz do add some more new cookings of yours...yee

Hi Yee! It's so awesome that you enjoyed the recipe! So glad to hear that!

Hey Annie!This is AWESOME that you did this.  I live far from my parents or any other Hmong people so sometimes when I crave this stuff it's nice to have a visual on how to make it.  I was wondering if you knew what the clear, long, colorful, rectangular stringy stuff is called that they sometimes put in Nam Vam?  

Hi Amy, yes that's tapioca!  All you need to do to make that is add 1 bag of tapica starch to 3 cups of hot boiling water.  Then you knead it and flatten out, and cut into strips, kind of like making fetticcine. I'll do a tutorial on this someday. I just didn't have the ingredients that day I was making nab vam.

is there a alternate type of flour i can use the stores were i live do not sell this unfortunatly.

For the worms:

You can make this out of self rising flour but I don't have the measurements for water.  You can also make this with flour, but again, I don't have the measurements for the water.  I usually just make it this way with this bag of flour and 9 cups cold water.

Hi Annie,I love your videos and always checking back to see for new videos/ideas. I love to cook myself. Anyways, I was wondering if you know how to make the long sticky strings that are in Nam Vam sometimes..I'm not sure what they are called but they are thin, chewy and sticky and sometimes put in nam vam. I really like those and I want to make some but I'm not sure how to make it.

That is made from tapioca starch and hot boiling water. You can use a whole bag and add 3 cups of hot boiling water. Knead it by hand until smooth and then you can cut it or you can put it through a pasta machine.

Do you have to cook this afterwards? In the nam vam sometimes I also see something that looks like gnocchi but it's more chewy. Tiny pieces are rolled on the wooden stick and it gives it a shape. It's very time consuming but is really good. Do you know what this is and how it's made? Thanks! Love your recipes by the way

Yes, that's just tapioca flour with hot water. Then you roll it like little caterpillars with that gnocchi board or using a fork or a comb. You have to boil it until it floats.

the tapioca starch is that the one from the clear blue writting or the smaller green color one that sometimes have a deer image on it???


Hi Annie,Thanks for your recipes... I love watching your videos and always check for new ones/ideas... Anyways I'm not sure what they are called but I was wondering if you know how to make them--they are the long, sticky, slimy (soemtimes chewy texture) strings that are sometimes put in nam vam..I really like those but I'm not sure how to make it...I think you use the rice flour and glutinous flour to make it but I don't know exactly for I was just wondering if you know what I am talking about and if you know how to make it, could you send me the recipe or do a video/tutorial on it? Thanks a bunch!!!

Yup, that is a common question. I'll try to do a part 2 to the Nab Vam tutorial to add more items to nab vam.

ty ty ty ty ty ty...thats all i can say..hehe

Thanks for commenting!

My first time attempt at making nab vam with my husband was interesting. I usually don't let him cook ;) I told him we needed to add water to the caramalizing sugar and he kept arguing, so I rushed and almost burned him with steam/hot sugar splashes ^_^Our green nab vam turned out too thick for some reason. Maybe we cooked it too long, because it looked like slime, not runny like yours. Next time I'll just use half the bag of tapico pearls, because I didn't have any more room for water in my pot. I think I filled my pot with at least 18 cups of water and that still wasn't enough. I need to get a giant pot like yours.  Maybe I'll cook the food coloring with the tapico pearls next time, because when I mixed it in after adding the cold water and then mixing it with the rest of the ingredients the colors disappeared. The red and blue mix became an orange, not pretty. Or maybe I need powder food coloring. I also added a few drops of banana flavoring, because it smelled more like nab nav that way.

There's another way to cook the sugar. Just boil hot water and then add the sugar. It does not have a caramel taste but it is still sweet.  Some people don't like coconut milk so they opt it out by adding non-dairy creamer to some water and sugar.  Yes, you will need a big pot to make a full bag.  You keep adding more and more water so that the tapioca cooks all the way through.  Sometimes when it gets too thick I dump the water out and add more clean water. Powder food coloring is more intense than the gel or liquid food coloring.  I've seen some people add the color while the tapioca is boiling.  I don't because that is a lot of food coloring to add to the water.  What I do is let the cooked tapioca sit in the food coloring for a few hours so that it gets absorbed.  You can also buy the colored tapioca pearls to save you time on dying it. Good luck!


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