I am intimidated by Taiwanese cooking. I am intimidated because my parents and grandparents are excellent cooks. I am intimidated because I don't want to offend anyone by making a blasphemous mistake that completely ruins the dish. I am intimidated because I will have something in mind I want to eat that I have seen my parents cook a dozen times but I have no idea how to even begin shopping for the right ingredients. I call Dad for help. I describe what it is I want to eat, "you know, something Mom makes." Then we spend the next few minutes figuring out what type of noodles I have in my pantry. "Bean noodles? What kind?" I can't read Chinese. I take a picture of the noodle package, send it to him, he confirms it. Ok, I have a start.
This dish consists of stewed cellophane noodles with a spicy ground pork meat sauce. 蟻上樹 (má yǐ shàng shù) translates directly to "ants climbing a tree." The bits of ground meat clinging to the noodles are like ants walking on twigs.
Best advice Dad gave, "Don't be afraid - make it your own."
Yield: ~4-6 servings
Time: ~30 minutes
- 5 bundles cellophane noodles (mung bean noodles)
- 1lb ground pork
- 2 medium carrots, grated thinly
- 1 can pickled cucumbers (you know the Asian ones, not Dill pickles)
- 1 package tofu
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- sesame oil
- Sriracha hot chili sauce
- In a large bowl, soak noodles in water. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, prepare your ingredients. Wash and grate carrots. Drain and cube tofu. Set aside.
- With sesame oil in a hot pan, cook ground pork until pink is mostly gone (~5-10 minutes?) . Add tofu, carrots, and pickled cucumbers. Stir and cook until it smells good (~5 minutes?). Remove from pan.
- Add vegetable broth to hot pan, add drained cellophane noodles that had been soaking. Once the noodles have absorbed most of the broth (~5 minutes?), stir in your mixture from earlier. Add hot sauce to taste.
- Serve immediately!