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Ants climbing trees

Australian Gourmet Traveller Chinese noodle recipe for ants climbing trees.

By Lisa Featherby
  • 20 mins preparation
  • 15 mins cooking plus marinating
  • Serves 4
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Ants climbing trees
The small pieces of minced pork mixed with the cellophane noodles in this Sichuan specialty supposedly resemble ants climbing trees. It may not have the most appealing name but this dish is delicious, with an unmistakable Sichuan flavour: spicy and mouth-numbing.


  • 250 gm cellophane noodles (see note)
  • 300 gm silken tofu
Pork and chilli sauce
  • 200 gm minced pork
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 3 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp each sesame and Sichuan peppercorn oils (see note)
  • 100 ml light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 bunch Chinese celery, stalks finely chopped and ½ cup (firmly packed) leaves finely chopped, to serve
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red birdseye chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli powder, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp chilli bean paste (see note)
  • ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
  • 10 gm (2cm piece) ginger, finely grated
  • 2 spring onions, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 250 ml (1 cup) chicken stock
  • 2 tsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp cold water


  • 1
    For pork and chilli sauce, combine pork, Shaoxing, sugar, sesame and Sichuan oils, 40ml soy sauce and ¼ tsp salt in a bowl and refrigerate to marinate (1 hour).
  • 2
    Heat peanut oil in a wok over high heat, add celery stalk and garlic, stir-fry until fragrant (20-30 seconds). Add pork mixture and remaining ingredients, stir until pork is cooked through (2-4 minutes). Set aside and keep warm.
  • 3
    Cook noodles in a saucepan of boiling water until transparent (1-2 minutes), drain and set aside.
  • 4
    Meanwhile, steam tofu in a bamboo steamer placed over a saucepan of simmering water until warmed through (3-5 minutes).
  • 5
    Bring pork and chilli sauce to the simmer, add noodles and stir through, then divide among bowls. Cut tofu into rough cubes and place on top, then serve scattered with Chinese celery leaves.


Note Cellophane noodles, also known as glass or bean thread noodles, are available from Asian grocers and the Asian sections of major supermarkets. Sichuan peppercorn oil is available from select Chinese grocers. If unavailable, substitute sesame oil and a few crushed Sichuan peppercorns. Chilli bean paste is available from Asian grocers.