This is a simplified version of a Chinese dish. An uncomplicated and delicious combo of ground pork and noodles, it is called Ants in a Tree because that is supposedly what it looks like. The first time I ate it was when Kempy Minifie the senior food editor at Gourmet, tested Nina Simond’s version of it for the magazine. Nina has written many great Asian cookbooks, I recommend them all. I love this recipe, but it used to be hard to find some of the ingredients such as toasted sesame oil, Asian chile paste, and cellophane noodles. Today these ingredients are available in many supermarkets as well as in Asian shops and on line. Cellophane noodles (also known as bean threads) are made from the starch of mung beans but capellini (angel hair pasta) makes a good substitute. Everybody likes this recipe. Try it yourself and see if it doesn’t become a weeknight regular. Of course, if you are antipork, just substitute lean ground beef or turkey.
Kosher salt to taste1/2 pound cellophane noodles (bean threads) or angel hair pasta1 pound ground pork1/4 cup soy sauce1 tablespoon Asian (toasted ) sesame oil2 teaspoons cornstarch6 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced3 tablespoons vegetable oilOne 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated4 garlic cloves, minced1 tablespoon Asian chile paste 2 cups shredded napa cabbage2/3 cup chicken stock, preferable homemade (pageFreshly ground black pepper to taste
Serves 4 to 6
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and bring back to a boil. Boil for 1 minute for cellophane noodles and 2 to 3 minutes for angel hair pasta. Drain in a colander and rinse under running water Set aside.
Stir the pork with 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce the sesame oil, the cornstarch, and half the scallions in a small bowl.
Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Add the ginger, garlic, and chile paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pork mixture and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the cabbage and the remaining 2 tablespoon soy sauce/ Cook, stirring, until the cabbage is almost wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cooked noodles and cook, cutting them slightly with the side of a spatula, until the pork is no longer pink, about 1 minute. Pour in the chicken stock and add the remaining scallions. Season with salt and pepper and reduce the heat to medium low Cover loosely with foil and simmer until the noodles have absorbed some of the stick, about 3 minutes.