I'm not sure if this has any significance at all, but this recipe has the distinction of being the very last recipe in Alton Brown's Good Eats 3: The Later Years, meaning it's also the last recipe in the TV show's long run. Interestingly, it's a take on a Sichuan dish called mayi shang shu, which apparently translates into English as "ants climbing in trees."
Don't worry, no actual ants are involved: the pork clings to the noodles like ants on a tree. Now you know. Since I have a little bit of an infatuation with Sichuan cuisine, I couldn't wait to try this out, even if it did have a funny name.
Instead of using chili bean paste, Brown calls for sambal, an ingredient that's much easier to find in most grocery stores. Though it misses the funk of the bean paste, it definitely works, even providing a bit more acidity to the each bite. I was a little scared to use mung bean threads, as I've had a few recipes with them fail on me. But Brown's detailed instructions helped walk me through the process. This is the kind of quick weeknight meal I'll be keeping in my repertoire.
- 5 ounces mung bean threads
- 2 ounces soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon sambal chile paste, plus more for serving
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 10 ounces ground pork
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 4 scallions, ends trimmed, sliced on the bias
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
Toss the mung bean threads into a large bowl and cover with hot water (Brown recommends 120°F to 150°F) by one inch. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes. With a pair of kitchen shears, cut the threads into 4- to 6-inch pieces. Drain in a colander for at least 10 minutes.
While the bean threads are soaking, in a medium-sized bowl whisk together the soy sauce, mirin, and sambal. Add the corn starch and whisk until smooth. Then add the pork and stir until well combined. Set the bowl aside for 30 minutes.
When the pork has finished marinating, place a large work or 12-inch sauté pan over high heat. When very hot, add the oil, and when it starts to shimmer, add the pork mixture. Cook, stirring with a large wooden spoon to break the pork into very small pieces, until lightly browned, about two minutes. Add two-thirds of the scallions, and continue to stir often until the pork is well browned, another two minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-high and pour in the broth. Cook until the broth has evaporated, one to two minutes.
Add a handful of the drained mung bean threads. Stir well until the threads are completely coated in the pork and sauce. Repeat process until all of the mung bean threads have been added.
Divide mixture between four plates, and garnish with the remaining scallions. Serve with more sambal if you need some more spice.