Oh what a silly name that makes this dish all the more endearing. Not sure how noodles look like a tree or bark, but Ants Climb a Tree is what they call it. So silly.
Why is it called Ants Climb a Tree?
So named because the little bits of pork, apparently resemble ants that are climbing up strands of noodles that apparently resemble tree bark.
Such is the humor from the region of Sichuan, China, where this dish is from to conjure such a picture with this meal.
Classic Sichuan Homestyle Dish
This is a classic homestyle dish you would find in someone’s home rather than a restaurant. Since it is from Sichuan, it traditionally uses fermented chili bean paste as part of the seasoning.
However, I’ve eliminated that key ingredient from this recipe because I learned to make this dish without it. In addition, the spice from the bean paste will clash with the wine pairing.
Chinese Food with French Red Wine
Is it possible to pair a red wine with Chinese food? According to this NPR article, Chinese demand for red wine has exploded in the last 10 years, and they like French Bordeaux.
Does that mean they’re drinking French wine with French food? Perhaps, but they are likely pairing it with the food they’re already eating, such as Ants Climb a Tree.
Since the seasoning in this dish is limited to soy sauce, fresh garlic, and rice wine, it should meld nicely with our French wine selection: Cru Bourgeois.
What kind of noodles are used?
Ants Climb a Tree is specifically made with cellophane noodles made from mung beans and potato starch. Yes, they are gluten-free.
They are also very quick cooking. After a quick soak in cold water, they will soak up all the liquid in the pot in a few minutes.
Make it vegan
To make this vegan, thinly sliced shitake mushrooms (rehydrated from dried shitakes) would work well.
To make this gluten-free, sub the soy sauces with tamari.
Step 1: Soak mung bean noodles
This brand of mung bean noodles from Taiwan comes in a hot pink mesh bag. While you might buy it for that reason alone, it is also attractive because it lists mung bean starch as the main ingredient.
Other brands will have potato starch as the main ingredient, so it’s up to you which you prefer. They all have a combination of both mung bean and potato starch.
Cover the noodles with water, and set aside while you prep the remaining ingredients. They should soak for at least 10 minutes.
Step 2: Make pork ragu
The Chinese tend to add liquid and/or starch to pork to make it soft and tender. You’ve probably noticed the texture of the meat in potstickers is much softer than a typical Italian meatball.
Some recipes will treat the pork with a combination of water and cornstarch to make the pork soft. However, the mung bean noodles are also quite soft, so this recipe skips that pork plumping step.
Add some oil to a medium hot non-stick pan and swirl. Add minced garlic and pork and stir some more, while pecking at the pork to break up the sticky mixture into little ant-sized pieces.
Add soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and rice wine to season the pork.
Pictured above is pasture raised ground pork which doesn’t have a lot of fat since the little piggies have room to exercise.
If you use conventional pork, there may be excess fat after cooking, which you should drain before adding the noodles.
Step 3: Add noodles
Here is the tricky part. Those mung bean noodles will drink up whatever liquid you give them.
Add too much liquid and this turns into a soup. Add too little and the noodles won’t be cooked.
You want soft noodles but not mushy. You could add chicken stock but water works just fine too.
Taste the noodles for doneness and seasoning. Add a little water and extra salt if needed.
Step 4: Serve hot or room temperature
Add green onion garnish and serve. It tastes good hot, but it is often served at room temperature as well.
What can go wrong with your Ants Climbing a Tree
Not much…but you may have issues with the mung noodles. They will absorb whatever liquid you give them, so you want to add enough to make sure they are cooked but not enough to make them mushy.
You will also have one tough to clean pan if you don’t use a non-stick pan or seasoned wok.
Wine Pairing: Cru Bourgeois
French wine is wonderful, but it’s just so hard to understand and not always easy to pronounce.
Take this 2015 Chateau Pomeys Moulis en Medoc Cru Bourgeois. Hard to tell it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend just by reading that.
The back label doesn’t help much either because it’s in French.
Chateau Pomeys is the name of the winery. Winery estate names in France start with Chateau.
Moulis en Medoc is the town in Medoc that the wine is from. Medoc is a sub region within the famed Bordeaux wine growing region in France.
Since 1855, the Medoc region has been under the classification system where all the wineries are ranked in order of importance or quality.
The order is Premier Crus, Deuxiemes Crus, Troisiemes Crus, Quatriemes Crus, Cinquiemes Crus. If you have that designation on your label, you probably have a very nice bottle of Bordeaux on your hands.
What is Cru Bourgeois?
All the wine that didn’t make the cut and didn’t get classified in 1855 in the Medoc region, eg. budget friendly wine because a century old classification adds significantly to the bottle price.
Wine for the masses if you will. For that sentiment alone, it pairs with this non-fancy, home style, everyday kind of noodle dish.
Recommended pairings for Cru Bourgeois often include braised or grilled meats, pork, and earthy mushroom dishes.
At 13.5% alcohol, this Chateau Pomey also has lower tannin than most other Bordeaux wines. Since we’ve eliminated the spice from the noodle dish, the red wine gets to roll around with a little soy sauce on the palate.
This industry article recommends chilling the wine for 30 minutes in the fridge. That will additionally keep it from feeling too heavy and make a refreshing contrast with the noodles.
Celebrate the holidays with French Wine
For much of China, December is just another month on the calendar, and holidays are celebrated in other months, such as the Lunar New Year in February and Moon Festival in September.
Hence, this month’s pairing of Ants Climb a Tree with Cru Bourgeois is something you might enjoy every day.
However, the #wineophiles crew has got you covered for all the information you need to know on drinking French wines this holiday season.
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla whips up “A French #Winophiles Fête: Foie Gras, Pain d’Epices & Champagne Drappier“
- Jill shares from L’OCCASION shares “How To Bring French Holiday Traditions Home“
- Gwen at WinePredator has “Season’s Greetings French-Style”
- Wendy at A Day In The Life On The Farm gives us “A Holiday Gathering with French Foods and Wines”
- Martin at ENOFLYZ Wine Blog shares “A Taste of French Inspired Holiday Food and Wine“
- Jeff from foodwineclick discusses “What is French-Style Season?”
- Liz from What’s In That Bottle tells us how to “Frenchify Your Festivities with Fun Wines“
- Payal writes at Keep The Peas shares “Bonnes Fêtes à la #winophiles”
- Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares “Parisian Holidays: A Few of My Favorite Things“
- David Crowley of CookingChat shares “Festive Pairings for Pouilly-Fumé and Other Special French Wine #winophiles“
- Jane cooks things up at Always Ravenous shares “A French-Inspired Winter Dinner”
- Rupal from Journeys of a Syrah Queen shares “French Inspired Holiday Wines”
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles entices us with “Un repas de Noël pour les fêtes de fin d’année (A Christmas Dinner for the end of the year celebrations)…with wine #Winophiles”
- Michelle of Rockin Red Blog writes about “A French-Inspired Holiday Alsatian Style”
- Lyn writes at L.M. Archer shares “The Hedonistic Tasteer: A French-Style Season“
Ants Climb a Tree
This eccentrically named Chinese noodle dish is actually a simple stir fry of ground pork and mung bean noodles meant to resemble ants climbing a tree. Serve hot or room temperature for some classic Asian comfort food.
- 4 oz dried mung bean noodles
- 1 tsp oil
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 4 oz ground pork
- 1 Tb dark soy sauce
- 1 Tb soy sauce
- 2 Tb rice wine
- 3/4 c water
- sliced green onion for garnish
Cover mung bean noodles with boiling water. Set aside for at least 10-15 minutes. They should be fully cooked at this point.
Heat a non-stick pan or wok to medium heat. Add 1 tsp oil and garlic. Stir for 10-15 seconds.
Add ground pork, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and rice wine. Cook for 2-3 minutes until pork is cooked through. Keep stirring to break up the pork into ant sized pieces.
Drain the mung bean noodles. Cut into smaller pieces with a couple chops with scissors. Add noodles to pan with water stir for 2-3 minutes. If the noodles start to stick to the pan, you can add a little more water to the pan.
Season with salt to taste. Garnish with green onion to serve.