From the Kitchen Window column
I've always thought this was my grandmother's recipe, but when I went back and looked at my notes from cooking with her, I saw they bore no resemblance to what I do. You may know this dish by its popular name, "ants climbing trees," which has always struck me as needlessly exotic-sounding. It's just ground pork and noodles, folks! I like to put in green peas for a vegetable so I can give it to the kids and call it dinner. The one challenging ingredient in this is the Tianjin preserved vegetable, truly one of the more perplexing things you can look for in an Asian grocery. It's a brown, pickled and shredded Chinese cabbage that sometimes comes in foil packets and sometimes in a jar. The picture on the outside doesn't look like what's on the inside, and very often there isn't a single word of English on the label. I can't read Chinese, so about the half the time I end up with some other weird pickled vegetable in foil, which I just go ahead and use anyway. It's always really good just the same.
Makes 4 servings
8 ounces mung bean thread noodles
1/2 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari sauce)
4 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 coin-sized slices peeled ginger, 1/8-inch thick
3 scallions, roots trimmed
4 tablespoons Tianjin preserved vegetable (see note above, optional)
1 tablespoon chili bean sauce or Szechuan chili paste (optional; I use chili oil made by Laoganma — a chili bean sauce made with peanuts)
1 cup frozen petite green peas
For The Sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari sauce)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Soak the bean thread noodles in cool water. They'll soften in 15 to 20 minutes. Season the ground pork with the soy sauce or tamari, the rice wine, the sesame oil and a pinch of white sugar. Toss thoroughly. Mince the garlic cloves and ginger and roughly chop the Tianjin preserved vegetable if using. Halve the scallions lengthwise and chop finely, keeping the white parts and green parts separate. Drain the noodles.
Combine the ingredients for the sauce and mix together well.
Place a wok over high heat and swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the scallion whites and marinated pork and stir-fry until lightly browned. Don't worry about going for a deep brown crust. Lift out of the wok with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Over low-medium heat, refresh the wok with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the ginger, garlic, preserved vegetable and chili bean sauce. Let the flavors mingle for a minute or two. Raise the heat to high and add the drained noodles. Toss the noodles thoroughly with the oil and aromatics, then add the sauce. Once the noodles have absorbed the sauce (this will happen quickly), add the reserved pork.
Finally, toss in the scallion greens and frozen peas. Stir-fry just until the peas have thawed and serve.