Ants Climbing a Tree (Ma Yi Shang Shu / Spicy Bean Thread Noodles with Ground Pork)
A classic spicy Sichuan noodle dish, Ants Climbing a Tree is as easy to make as it is delicious. In 30 minutes you can enjoy a simple but flavorful combination of cellophane noodles and ground meat in a spicy sauce.
3scallionslight and dark green parts only, finely sliced
Soak the noodles in hot water for at least 15 minutes before you begin (drain them just before cooking). Add the Shaoxing rice wine and a couple generous pinches of salt to the ground pork and mix well.
Heat about 1 tablespoon oil in a wok over high heat (you may need less with a nonstick wok). Add the ground pork and stir-fry until lightly browned and crispy. Add a teaspoon or so of light soy sauce. Then add the chili bean paste and stir-fry, taking care not to burn it (remove the wok from the heat for a few moments if it becomes too hot). Add the broth and the drained noodles and stir well. Add the dark soy sauce for color, and season with additional light soy sauce and salt to taste.
When the broth has come to a boil, simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has mostly evaporated and absorbed. Finally, add the scallions, mix well, and transfer to a serving dish or distribute into individual bowls.
You may replace the ground pork in this recipe with ground beef if you prefer.
This recipe is easily doubled, but the ground meat tends to sink to the bottom when you have a lot of noodles in your wok. Make sure to scoop up a bit of everything when you serve this up. I find that serving it with tongs really helps.
I use a nonstick wok for convenience, but for a truly authentic Chinese cooking experience try using a carbon steel wok. Just keep in mind that carbon steel requires a bit more maintenance (not unlike cast iron). There are many sizes and materials of woks available, so pick something that suits your overall needs.