Ants Climbing a Tree
Other names for this authentic Szechuan dish include Ants Climbing a Hill, Ants Climbing a Log, and Ants Creeping up a Tree.
4 ounces transparent bean thread noodles (also known also vermicelli or glass noodles)
5 dried Shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon light soy sauce or Kikkoman
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Pinch of cornstarch
1 small red chili pepper and 1 teaspoon chili sauce, or 1 tablespoon chili sauce
2 slices ginger
2 green onions
Without removing the string wrapping around the transparent noodles, soak in hot water until they are pliable (about 5 minutes). Drain well. Cut the noodles into shorter lengths and then remove the string wrapping.
Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water to soften. Reserve 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid, straining it if necessary to remove any grit. Cut the mushrooms into thin slices.
Add the marinade ingredients to the ground pork, adding the cornstarch last. Marinate the pork for 15 minutes.
If using the chili pepper, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and chop coarsely. Finely chop the ginger. Cut the green onion on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Heat the wok over medium-high to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to the heated wok. Add the marinated pork. Stir-fry until the pork has changed color and is nearly cooked through. Remove from the wok. Clean out the wok.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to the wok. Add the chili pepper and ginger. Stir-fry briefly until aromatic. Add the dried mushrooms. Stir-fry briefly, then stir in the chili sauce and the noodles. Add the reserved mushroom soaking liquid in the middle of the wok. Return the ground pork to the pan. Stir in the green onion. Mix everything together and cook briefly. Make sure the pork is cooked through before serving.