Out of curiosity? To see if there really are “ants” in the dish?
No, there is no “ants” in the dish.
The title of this dish is for real, but you will have to use your imagination to find the “ants”.
In traditional everyday Chinese dishes, especially for the masses, meat is used as a flavoring for the dish rather than the main component. This particular dish is made with bean thread, right photo (see NOTE 1) and a bit of ground meat. The bean thread, after cooking with the soy sauce marinated ground pork, takes on a brown color reminiscent of tree branches (twigs) and the ground meat clinging to the “branches” looks like “ants” thus the name for the dish was established.
I said you will need to use your imagination, didn’t I?
Years ago, I was asked to present a program on Chinese noodles to a group of young adults (teenagers). I made the familiar noodles dishes. But my enquiring mind needed to know what if I also included something out-of-the-box? You guessed it, I also made “Ants Climbing Tree”. To my surprise, the dish went over extremely well and I have included it in my YA noodles program since.
Not the prettiest dish but very tasty.
Ants Climbing Tree
From “My Students’ Favorite Chinese Recipes updated edition” by Norma Chang
6 – 8 ounces lean ground pork or ground meat of choice
1 tablespoon ginger wine
1 – 3 teaspoons Chinese bean sauce or aka (red) miso
1 – 3 teaspoons soy sauce, regular or gluten free
1 – 3 teaspoons dark or mushroom dark soy sauce (see NOTE 2)
1 teaspoon sugar
Combine all the above in a small mixing bowl. Can be done ahead of time and kept refrigerated.
1 3.5-ounce package bean threads, soak in warm water for 15 minutes to soften. Cut into about 4-inch lengths. (see NOTE 3)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ - 2 teaspoons Asian chili sauce or to taste
1 – 2 tablespoons oil
3 – 4 scallions, thinly sliced (from my windowsill garden)
2 cups chicken or pork broth
1. Add oil to preheated wok or frying pan. Add garlic, stir-fry for a few seconds. Add ground meat and chili sauce. Stir-fry until meat changes color.
2. Add bean thread, stir to mix well. Add broth and bring to a boil. Coveer and simmer until most of the broth is absorbed.
3. Stir in scallions, adjust taste and serve with rice.
Serve in steamed pita halves (see NOTE 4).
NOTE 1: Bean thread also known as green bean thread, vermicelli, fun sze, cellophane noodles and glass noodles is made from mung beans (the same mung beans used to grow bean sprouts). Because it is made from beans it is presented as a protein dish (instead of carbohydrate like wheat or rice noodles) and served with rice. Comes in various size packages: 50 grams (1.76 ounces), 100 grams (3.52 ounces) …..
DO NOT confuse bean thread with rice sticks (rice noodles). At first glance they look the same, but upon closer inspection, bean thread has a transparent appearance, rice stick is more white. Dry bean thread has a wiry texture (difficult to break) where as rice stick has a brittle texture and crumbles easily.
NOTE 2: If dark or mushroom dark soy sauce is unavailble substitute regular or gluten free soy sauce. The difference is the finished dish will have a lighter color.
NOTE 3: If you must cut the bean thread in its dry form, hold it inside a large plastic or paper bag and use a pair of scissors. This will prevent it from flying all over the kitchen.
NOTE 4: Steaming the pita changes the consistency and gives it a texture almost like homemade Chinese pancake.
To steam: Cover steamer rack with a damp steamer cloth, place pita halves on top, cover and steam for 2 – 3 minutes.
VARIATION - Vegetarian Ants Climbing Tree
4 – 8 ounces frozen tofu for the ground meat.
vegetarian broth or water for the chicken or pork broth
All other ingredients remain the same.
Thaw and crumble frozen tofu
All other preparations steps remain the same.
Copyright © by Norma Chang
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