December 6, 2017 10:36:57 AM
Ants in a Tree is the English translation of the Chinese name for this classic recipe. Built of spicy pork, bean thread noodles (aka cellophane noodles) and scallions, it earned its name because it's not so far-fetched for the finished dish to call that image to mind -- the noodles look like tree branches, the scallions like tree leaves and the little bits of ground pork like ants. Admittedly, it's not a very appetizing image, but the dish itself happens to be a crowd-pleaser. Indeed, it's a refreshing break from the usual holiday fare.
Cellophane noodles can be tough to find in your supermarket, which is why I've listed capellini (very thin strands of pasta). If you're not a fan of pork, you're welcome to swap in beef, turkey or chicken. And if you can't source Asian chile paste (made of chiles mixed with oil or vinegar and salt), use your favorite brand of hot sauce. Of course, if you'd prefer the dish to be mild, leave the hot stuff out of it.
Make sure you prepare every ingredient before you begin cooking. Many of them cook very quickly and are added to the pan in rapid succession. If at any stage the next round of ingredients isn't ready to go, the ones in the pan will overcook.
As a way to help the noodles absorb the myriad flavors of the sauce, par-cook the noodles and finish them in the sauce. If, in the end, you're more in the mood for a bowl of soup than a plate of pasta, add more chicken broth.
ANTS IN A TREE
Start to finish: 50 minutes
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup thinly sliced white and light green part of scallion, plus 1/2 cup thinly sliced dark green part of scallion for garnish
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons Asian chile paste (or to taste)
3 cups shredded Napa cabbage
6 ounces capellini
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Nutrition information per serving: 428 calories; 236 calories from fat; 26 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 54 mg cholesterol; 588 mg sodium; 25 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 19 g protein.