I've always loved the name of this dish although I have to say that it looks nothing like ants or trees for that matter. I'm going to have to assume that the person who named it was wither drunk or a poet with a good imagination. It is basically hand minced or ground meat (usually pork), which is supposed to be the ants cooked with bean thread noodles, the tree branches perhaps? And, it is all cooked together in a slightly spicy sauce. It's a wonderful dish for people who are gluten free who want a noodle that's not made of rice. The bean thread noodles are also a big hit with kids as they are translucent and somewhat slippery, making them good to slurp! But, when my kids were little, I did tone down the heat a lot. Now they like things hotter than I do. I bought more ground chicken than I needed for the last dish I made this for our very next meal.
It's simple as many Asian dishes are and only requires a few sauce ingredients - Tamari, Rice Wine and Chili Bean Paste or Chili Garlic Sauce or both and Toasted Sesame Oil and a little Black Pepper. Chili Bean Paste has a slightly deeper flavor and I personally prefer the Chili Garlic Sauce but they are also really good together. The other aromatics are the Chinese trilogy - garlic, green onions and ginger. It's got a bright spicy flavor that excites the palate. You've got to try this one.....
Ants on a Tree
3/4 pound minced or ground chicken (or pork)
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 1/2 chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6 green onions, ends trimmed and cut into small pieces - white and green parts separated
3 Tablespoons Tamari
1 Tablespoon Rice Wine
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
2 - 3 Tablespoons Chili Bean Paste and/or Chili Garlic Sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee brand)
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
3 cups boiling water
Fresh ground Black Pepper
Soak the noodles in hot tap water for about 20 - 30 minutes. Put the ground chicken in a bowl and mix in 1 Tablespoon of the Tamari and the Rice Wine - mix until incorporated into the meat. In another bowl mix together the remaining 2 Tablespoons of Tamari, the Sesame Oil and the Chili Bean Paste and/or the Chili Garlic Sauce.
Heat Oil in a large frying pan. Add in the white part of the green onion with the ginger and garlic. Cook until it just starts to brown. Add in the ground chicken and cook until no longer pink, breaking the meat up into small pieces. Add in the sauce and stir, then add the water and bean thread noodles. Cook until the water is mostly absorbed, add the green tops of the green onions and Black Pepper. Toss to mix in and serve on a large plate.
Five Element Analysis
Mung beans belong to the Water Element and the Tamari and Sesame Oil add even more so that element is covered. The chicken contributes the Wood Element and the Chili Sauce, Rice Wine and Black Pepper add the Fire Element. The garlic, ginger and green onions contribute the Metal Element so only the Earth Element is missing. So, be sure to serve this with another Earth vegetable, like cabbage to make a balanced meal.