Monday 23 January 2012

ma yi shang shu (ants climbing up a tree)

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

It's Chinese New Year once again and this year we enter into the lair of the Water Dragon.

A Chinese friend told me that dragons are a very auspicious sign and that many Chinese people will be trying hard to have a baby this year so their little ones will grow up as majestic, strong people.

This dish is a nice new year meal because eating long noodles on the first day of the year is supposed to symbolise prosperity throughout the year and long life in general. It does contain meat though, which isn't  traditionally on a new year menu.

And to top it off, the origin of this dish's name is super cute. As SBS Feast Magazine, the source of this awesome dish, explains:
"It is thought a poet bestowed this Szechuan dish with it's name after observing that when the noodles are held up with chopsticks, the bits of meat clinging to it appear like ants climbing a tree."

Ma Yi Shang Shu (Ants Climbing Up A Tree)

Recipe from SBS Feast Magazine Issue #5. Serves 4.

250g minced pork
2 ½ tablespoons salt-reduced soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons Chinese rice wine (shaoxing)
1 ½ tablespoons chilli bean sauce (toban djan)
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
250ml chicken stock
150g vermicelli (mung bean) noodles
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4cm piece ginger, grated
Shredded spring onions, to serve


1. Combine pork, 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons rice wine, chilli bean sauce and cornflour. Using your hands, knead pork mixture for 5 minutes until a smooth paste. Set aside for 20 minutes.

2. Combine remaining soy sauce and 1 tablespoon rice wine, sugar, sesame oil and stock in a bowl.

3. Soak noodles in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes or until softened. Drain well.

4. Heat peanut oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add pork mixture and brown, breaking up lumps, for 2 minutes.

5. Add noodles and sauce mixture, and stir for 2 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

6. Scatter with spring onions to serve.


  1. I remember the first time I came across this dish and absolutely loved the poetic yet unapetising name!

  2. The name is great isn't it?! And it looks like a verty tasty dish.
    I've been meaning to get my hands on a copy of the new Feast magazine too!

    1. feast is a great magazine. you should definitely get a copy. it's just filled with recipes from aussie families from all different cultures. it's fascinating.

  3. Gorgeous- love the name and the dish.

  4. The name of the dish is magical, the imagery that it creates. Looks super tasty too.

  5. Very imaginative name and very tasty ingredients, the vermicelli look perfect. The another day in Madrid Fusion 2012 they cook real ants!

    1. did you try the ants? not sure i could do it. something about insects just puts me off. unless they were crunchy...

  6. Most recipes I see online omit what I think is the key ingredient: Szechuan pepper. When this small, often red, husk is used for seasoning, it takes a good dish and makes it great.

    1. even though i adore chilli and black pepper, i have to admit i'm not a huge fan of szechuan pepper. i don't like the menthol-like flavour it has.


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