Ants climbing a tree --cellophane noodles stir-fried with minced beef (蚂蚁上树) is a famous dish from Sichuan cuisine. It is hot, savory, and super easy to cook. You will love this lovely Sichuan dish.
About the name
This is a lovely story about the name, in In Guan Hanqing’s Dou E's Injustice, the heroine’s mother-in-law was old and sick, lying in bed all day long. Dou E shouldered the responsibility of taking care of her. Although they were very poor, Dou E still wanted to cook delicious dishes for her mother-in-law with the wish of helping her recover. One day, she did not have enough money to buy pork but only a small piece. Backing home, Dou E minced a small amount of pork and stir-fried it with Chinese vermicelli. When serving this dish, the old lady asked why there were so many ants on it. The ants actually were the minced pork. After the explanation, the old lady gave the dish the name Ants climbing a tree. Nowadays, it has become quite popular in restaurants and daily kitchens.
Another possible reason for the name is to describe the texture of the dish. Minced pork is described as "ants" while the cellophane noodle is described as the "tree".
The noodle used in ants climbing a tree can be mung bean cellophane noodles (粉丝) made from mung bean starch. The name can be translated as bean thread noodles. Cellophane noodle is a big group in China and you may find them called as saifun outside China. In addition to these mung bean cellophane noodles, we also have cellophane noodles made from yams like sweet potato cellophane noodles. Sometimes, you may find they have named glass noodles as they will become transparent after cooking.
You can use both sweet potato glass noodle which is quite popular in Korean cuisine too or simply use mung bean glass noodles.
🥘 Ingredients breakdown
- Glass noodles- either sweet potato starch noodles or mung bean starch noodles.
- Doubanjiang- the soul of Sichuan food, giving this dish a mild spicy flavor.
- Aromatics- ginger and garlic, enhance the flavors.
- Light soy sauce- provides a basic savory taste
- Dark soy sauce- darken the color, but need to spare the amount.
- Minced pork - is working as a flavor enhancer and our ants.
- Sugar- helps to combine all of the flavors together.
- dou-chi fermented black beans give the dish a lovely nutty flavor. You can skip this if you don't have it by hand.
Marinade the minced beef or pork with a pinch of salt. Then finely chop the ground meat so we can have more ants and improve the texture.
Soak Chinese vermicelli in warm water until soft around 10 minutes Move out and drain.
Heat up oil in a wok and fry the ground pork until aroma and crispy.
Add doubanjiang, minced garlic, sliced ginger, douchi if using and chopped scallion in a wok and stir-fry over medium fire until the oil becomes red and you can smell the aroma.
Add soaked vermicelli, and add around 1 cup of water. Heat until it thickened once again. Add light soy sauce, dark doy sauce, and sugar. Give a big stir-fry to mix everything well. (There is no need to cook off all the liquid as the vermicelli continues to adsorb liquid after transferring out).
Ants Climbing a Tree-vermicelli recipe
- 200 g mung bean vermicelli
- 1 cup minced beef or pork
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon Doubanjiang
- ½ tsp. dou-chi , optional
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ¼ tsp. dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon scallion white , white part and green part minced separately
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup water or chicken stock
- Marinade the minced beef or pork with pinch of salt. Soak Chinese vermicelli in warm water until soft around 10 minutes Move out and drain.
- Heat up oil in wok and fry the ground pork until aromatic and crispy.
- Add doubanjiang, minced garlic, dou-chi if using, sliced ginger and chopped scallion in wok and stir-fry over medium fire until the oil becomes red and you can smell the aroma.
- Add soaked vermicelli, and add around 1 cup of water. Heat until it thickened once again. Add light soy sauce, dark doy sauce, and sugar. Give a big stir-fry to mix everything well. (There is no need to cook off all the liquid as the vermicelli continues to adsorb liquid after transferring out).
- Sprinkle chopped green onions and serve hot.