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!


Thanks for the tips!You can laugh at my sorry cooking ^_^ Second attempt I added too much water and the flour just burned the bottom of the pot (maybe it was a cheap pot) :/ I also waited too late add water to the sugar when it was cooking so when the sugar cooled the syrup stuck to the pan. The third attempt the worms looked great but it smelled weird. I used a different type of flour so that may be why. So I tried to just make the drink with only tapioca pearls since my mess of snakes didn't turn out well. I introduced the drink to people that have never had tapioca before and they thought it tasted like a coconut shake lol. I'll master this recipe eventually! I tried nab vam at a party that had cantelope slices in it and it was delish!  

Cantelope is great in this dessert! I also like some water chesnut filled tapioca. My favorite thing to add is coconut strings. Mmm I love this!~  I'm not a big fan of jack fruit but it does add a different taste to the dessert. Overall, I like mine pretty basic like the one I made in this video. My hubby likes to eat his with a lot of beans.  I've also made a Vietnamese version with just the strings, jello, mung beans, coconut and syrup with shaved ice. It's pretty good too!

HI Annie,I have 12 kids and their favorite hmong food is Nab Vam. I checked all the Asian store in Madison for the flour package you showed in the video to do Nab Vam. The flour bag only comes in 12 oz not 16 oz. I used the 12 oz flour package with 9 cups of water and it's too hard and thick to come out of the pot to make the string Nab Vam. What did I do wrong? Is it because I did not use the 16 oz flour pakage? Have you try the 12 oz pakage instead? Please help me with your advise. I would like to see and make the string of NaB Vam come out easy from the rice hole pot.  

Hi Linda, were you able to find the same green bag? It is sold at Yue Wah market on Park Street and also the Hmong store on Park Street. I think the Hmong store on Sherman Ave also sells it.  Be sure to use cold water.  It should look like slime. :-)

I was and it comes in a 12 oz bag not 16 oz. Does it matter if I use the 12 oz bag with 9 cups of cold water? Where can I find the steam pot you are using? Another question re: sweet pork with eggs. There are alot of soy sauce at Asian store. Do you use the small bottle soy sause or the tall bottle soy sause? Thank you for sharing you recipe to all wife/daughter/mother/grandmother who does not know how to make these dishes. My mother died a long time and I wan an orphan when I was 10 years. No one taught me to make these wondeful dishes that you make. I have 7 daughters, oldest is 18 years and I am having her learn to cook wonderful dishes like you. I wish you were my sisiter and I can learn many wonderfult dishes from you. Linda

Hi Linda, I think you can still use the 9 cups cold water with the 12 oz bag.  If you are unsure, try 8 cups first. It will start off like a thin liquid and as it cooks, it will get thicker and thicker. It will become semi translucent and look like ooze slime.  When it starts to bubble and pop, it is done. If it is too wet, keep cooking it til it resembles slime.  I got my steamer from a korean store in Chicago.  You can use any steamer that has holes. I think if you have a large potato masher that has holes, that would even work. You can also buy a generic one at Viet Hoa on Monona Drive.  It's not really convenient and is sort of hard to hold, but they do carry a "cendol" maker.. Just ask them.

About the soy sauce for the sweet pork. I just used the regular Kikkoman Soy Sauce.  If you want to use sweet soy sauce, you don't have to add the brown sugar.  If using regular soy sauce then yes you need to add the brown sugar.

Good luck!

This is the way I make mines also but I always end up having a raw flour taste to it. Do you have it too? I went searching and found a recipe on youtube that includes mung bean flour and coconut milk. Have you tired anything like this?

I didn't notice a raw flour taste. Are you cooking your mixture until it's gooey and solid and clear?

My SIL uses the mung bean powder and I do noticed a difference. It taste better! But the mung bean flour is more pricey than your regular flour. Sorry, I do not know the exact measurements of water:flour ratio. The pastor's wife make the best na Vam I've tasted... Beats the one at the viet store. She does not disclosed her recipe & all I know is she uses all-purpose flour.

I wish more people shared their recipes!!!! That would make it such a more tasteful world!

about the nah vam green string beside those flour u use can we use those fawm kaw however u spell it umm can we use it too or does it work too

I haven't tried that kind of flour, but I'm sure if you have the appropriate water / flour ratio, it could work.

My nab vam come out good but it stick together just fall into like ball..what am I doing wrong??

Stir constantly.

Hi Annie,I just wanted to thank your for sharing and posting your recipes. My mom always cooked for me and I never learned from her when I had the chance. Now that I am married I am trying to learn how to cook those awesome dishes thanks to your recipes. I am so glad I found your website. I can't wait for you to have an app out. Thanks again,Lida    

Thanks so much for your support!!!

Thanks a million for your videos and recipes. I wish I would have discovered you sooner. I just recently found you through facebook and so glad I did. I cannot wait to try out all of your delicious food recipes.

Thanks for your comment! I hope to post more yummy food up.

hi, annie! i just wonder how many cups of water does the 12oz bag use? i can't find the 16oz bag so i just wonder if u know too...? same question as linda.

Use 8 1/2 cup water for the 12 oz bag.

Nab vam

Thanks for posting up all your cooking. It really helps me because I grew up without a mom, and none of these dishes were pass down to me. I really appreciate it. God Bless!

in regards to the bot banh gio 16 oz flour  that you used, I was wondering if I can substitute it with a different brand bot banh gio bc I could not find the exact brand that you used in my town?

You know how you add 9 cups of cold water. ? Do you really have too have 9 cups for or can you add less water?

Hi Annie! I was just wondering, what's on the bottom of the steamer once you pour the hot mixture into the steamer? Is it hot water or cold water?

What if u can only find 12oz bag instead of the 16oz bag...does the water u put in changes? If many cup of water do i put in for 12oz bag?

Hi Annie, Thanks for upload the tapioca strings, my favorite dessert too. I was wondering if you can help me buy the green food color powder, where i live they don't sell it at any market. I am greatly appreciate it. Let me know!  Thanks in advance!

Hi Annie, for the sugar syrup.. Does it stay on high heat the whole entire time?? It's not specified in the video. I always have a hard time trying to make the syrup. Thanks for your help.-KokoBean

How long do you cook it for?

Annie, I was really excited to try this recipe because I love the na va strings. I found the bag you used and I followed everything you did. Why is mines coming out more gooey?

Hey Annie i love your cooking tips! :) but i was wondering, what kind of food coloing do you prefer when making nab vam? I usually use the water food coloring, but i end up having to use almost the whole bottle just to get the color i want instead of being light.  (if i use red i want it to be red, not pink) Have you tried gel food coloring and if the color turns out better?  Or if its better to soak the tapioca in the food color over night?

Hi Annie I'm Angelic and I'm 13, thank you for this video of yours it really made cooking Nab Vam easy. It did not only made me happy but also my grandpa who wants me to make this for him.. Thank you again :))

My first attempt on the worms I followed recipe exactly same bag of flour to 9 cup water and when I made the worm into a thing of cold ice water my worms are 2nd attempt I bought a different brand flour (bc the store I went I to dont have it) I put 8 cup of water and when the flour thicken up it had a weird smell and even with less water the worms still soft! How do I get the worm to be slightly harder texture? Do I need to cook the flour longer? Please help TIA

annie, can you make a video using the potato ricer? its summer now and id love to try out your recipe. ive always wondered how to make the nam va worms and now with your help, i can try. thanks in advance!

So does this still taste the same as the rice flour and tapioca flour?

how many cups of water do I put in for 12 oz bag of flour?

I followed your directions for the cendol, mine came out very delicate what did I do wrong? Any ideas?

Hi! Annie I was wondering where you purchased your potato rice maker? If you don't mind can you please let me know where you got yours from
Thank you

how did you colored the pearls?

Hi Nancy, after the pearls are cooked I add the food coloring and let it soak it in. 

Hi Annie
I tried your nava recipie again to make the strings and this time it came out so much better. Using the potatoe rice made it much easier than the rice steamer too.

just accdident to get in your website.  It's so interesting that leads me to keep reading this recipe to others.....  Thanks for your recipes.

Can you show me a pic of the tapioca you talking about or can be use the tapioca shredded not khaoi but it doesn't have a deer on it and is very small baged. Also do we need to melt the sugar or can we just add it in after we mixed all the ingredients

Hi Soua, the sugar can be done any way you like. Some people just make a simple syrup and don't carmelize the sugar. It just depends on your taste.  

Thanks for letting me know my first attempt was like last 3 months and i tried using your recipe it worked very well and I just wanted to thank you for sharing your recipes. By the way I heard that there is this wand that helps pushes the jelly is that true? Do you know the exact name or how it looks like?

Hi Annie! I love your videos! They helped me become a better cook for my family. I would like to ask, I only have a family of 4 and the recipe for cendol is for a big number of servings. Can you give me a smash recipe that can feed like 6 people instead?

Hi Ali, you can try cutting the recipe in half.  So if you use half the bag, use 4.5 cups of water.

For the nab vam worms, can I just use a regular bag of the glutinous rice flour?! I live in NM and its very difficult for me to get my hands on the green bag. Thnx so much!

Hi Nikki, I don't think it will turn out the same. If you do try it, let me know how it turns out.

Did you use the measuring cup to measure your water?


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