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Ma Yi Shang Shu {Glass Noodle Stir Fry}

Traditional Sichuan Style, Vegan or Vegetarian Adaptable

by Shirley
Ma Yi Shang Shu {蚂蚁上树 Glass Noodle Stir Fry}

Ma Yi Shang Shu {蚂蚁上树}, literally translates as ants climbing up a tree. It is a traditional Sichuan-style glass noodle stir fry featuring minced pork and PiXian Doubanjiang. So appetizingly flavorful and quick & easy to make, as long as you know a few tips and tricks.

Ma Yi Shang Shu {蚂蚁上树 Glass Noodle Stir Fry}
Ma Yi Shang Shu {蚂蚁上树 Glass Noodle Stir Fry}

Why is called Ants Climbing Up a Tree {Ma Yi Shang Shu 蚂蚁上树}?

The ants here are referring to the cooked minced pork. The glass noodles look like twigs or a tree in the eyes of the ants. Stir Fried Glass Noodles with Minced Pork, therefore is dubbed as “Ants Climbing Up a Tree”, or Ma Yi Shang Shu {蚂蚁上树} in Chinese. It is a traditional and well-liked Sichuan-style home cooking.

Chinese Glass Noodle Fun Facts

Chinese glass noodles are made from sweet potato starch, either the oriental white flesh sweet potatoes or purple sweet potatoes. They come either in the shape of spaghetti or fettuccine. The spaghetti-shaped purple sweet potato glass noodles are what I am cooking today.

Glass noodles have a translucent, shiny look and a slippery silky taste. Exact the reason people also all them cellophane noodles.

rehydrated vs. dried purple sweet potato glass noodle

Are Glass Noodle and Vermicelli the same thing?

They are absolutely not. Glass Noodle is made from sweet potato starch, which gives them the translucent look and slippery taste. Chinese or Asian vermicelli, on the other hand, can either refer to bean thread noodles or rice noodles.

Mung bean thread noodles, known as “FenSi” {粉丝} in Chinese, are a traditional food in China. FenSi literally translates into “power threads”, implying the bean powder is used to make the bean thread noodles.

They are especially popular in the Yangtze River Delta Area, home to the naturally delicious Huai Yang Cuisine. DanJiao {egg dumpling} Fensi Soup with Spinach is such a classic Chinese New Year celebration food in my hometown Suzhou.

Dan Jiao Fensi Soup with Spinach {蛋饺菠菜粉丝汤}
Dan Jiao Fensi Soup with Spinach {蛋饺菠菜粉丝汤}

Compared to glass noodles, mung bean thread noodles have a whitish matte look. They do not taste silky. Instead, they have a very subtle gritty texture and a mild nutty flavor.

By the way, both glass noodles and bean thread noodles are popular hotpot food.

Vermicelli can also refer to rice thread noodles, called “Mi Xian {米线} or Mi Fen {米粉} in Chinese. They are especially popular in southern China Guang Xi and southeastern countries such as Vietnam and Singapore. Nowadays you can even get exotic organic black rice noodles.

How to make a quick, easy and delicious Glass Noodle Stir Fry {Ma Yi Shang Shu}?

Ingredients for making Ma Yi Shang Shu {Sichuan Style Glass Noodle Stir Fry}
Ingredients for making Ma Yi Shang Shu {Sichuan Style Glass Noodle Stir Fry}

Tip No.1 is to use sweet potato glass noodle if possible for Ma Yi Shangh Shu {蚂蚁上树} dish

The sweet potato based glass noodles have the silky and slippery feel and taste that complements this dish well.

Tip No.2 is to prepare glass noodles properly

Soak dried glass noodles in plenty of water at least 3 hours ahead of cooking to allow them fully rehydrated. Make sure you sue cold water to soak them. This way, they remain a satisfyingly firm bite texture. If the glass noodles are very long, cut into spaghetti length using a pair of kitchen scissors.

Tip No.3 is cook the rehydrated glass noodle directly

Technically, you braise the rehydrated glass noodles in the just right amount of sauce {liquid}. This way, as the glass noodles are being cooked, they also absorb just the right amout of liquid to become soft and look plump, but without the sogginess.

How to cook glass noodle stir fry?
How to cook glass noodle stir fry?

Another important aspect of cooking is to use a pair of bamboo spatulas or kitchen tongs to lift, toss the glass noodles and fold them with the sauce in the pan. Same way as you toss a salad. This ensures glass noodles are cooked evenly and properly absorb the sauce. This also ensures they do not stick with each other and become a soggy lump.

Last but not least is to marinate the ground pork before the cooking for tastier Ma Yi Shang Shu {蚂蚁上树}

This extra little step goes a long way for tastier pork, hence the tastier braising juice and glass noodles. A little Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, Zhenjiang vinegar, and arrowroot flour go a long way to tenderize and flavor the pork wonderfully. The healthy and delicious spice powder including star anise, ginger, and coriander seeds further elevated the flavor and taste.

For spices, you can easily grind the organic wholesome spices into powder at home using a spice grinder. I do this when the organic powder format is not readily available.

Fry Marinated Minced Pork in the Pan

How to make a vegetarian or vegan Ma Yi Shang Shu {Glass Noodle Stir Fry Sichuan Style}?

Substitute ground pork with soft scrambled eggs for vegetarian version Ma Yi Shang Shu

You can replace the ground pork with a soft scrambled egg for a wonderful vegetarian version of Ma Yi Shang Shu. Make a very soft scrambled egg and use the spatula to chop down the egg into small bits first.

The same way we make soft scrambled eggs for Yang Zhou Style Fried Rice. Read more here.

Making a Soft Scrambled Egg for Fried Rice
Making a Soft Scrambled Egg for Fried Rice

Use dried shiitake for vegan version Ma Yi Shang Shu

Dried shiitake mushroom is a popular ingredient for Chinese budda’s delight vegetarian cuisine. Dubbed as “Xiang Gu” {香菇} in Chinese, which literally translates into “delicious mushroom” or “scented mushroom”, shiitake is an ancient and popular mushroom in Chica. Dried shiitake is more common, as it is easier for storage.

Shiitake has a powerful and unique aroma, even so for the dried ones. They are super nutritious and tasty. Boasted low in calories but high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Dried shiitake also give you substantial satisfaction. This is no surprise as shiitake carries many of the same amino acids, the building blocks of protein, as meat. No wonder Chinese buddha’s vegetarian cuisine often uses shiitake as an essential ingredient.

re-hydrated dried shiitake vs. dried shiitake
Re-hydrated dried shiitake

Xiang Gu Ji Tang {Chinese Chicken Soup with Shiitake} is a well-liked traditional Chinese food. Dried shiitake complements glass noodles perfectly for this Glass Noodle Stir Fry. They add additional satisfying bite, flavor, and nutrition.

Soak the dried shiitake mushroom at room temperature water for at least 4 hours to ensure they are fully rehydrated and softened. Read more here.

Vegan Glass Noodle Stir Fry
Vegan Glass Noodle Stir Fry
Ma Yi Shang Shu {蚂蚁上树 Glass Noodle Stir Fry}

Ma Yi Shang Shu {Glass Noodle Stir Fry 蚂蚁上树} Recipe

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Ma Yi Shang Shu {蚂蚁上树}, literally translates as ants climbing up a tree. It is a traditional Sichuan-style glass noodle stir fry featuring minced pork and PiXian Doubanjiang. So appetizingly flavorful and quick & easy to make. Vegetarian and vegan adaptable.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz dried glass noodles, about 160 g
  • 1/2 lb ground pork, home ground preferred
  • 1 tsp cooking oil such as canola oil
  • 2 stalks of green onion, chopped
  • a small piece of ginger, 4g, organic preferred, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 tbsp - 1 tbsp Pi Xian Doubanjiang, see notes
  • 1 tbsp naturally aged soy sauce, or dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 cup of water

For Marinating the Pork:

  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 tbsp naturally aged soy sauce or dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Zhenjiang vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp cane sugar, organic unrefined preferred
  • 1/4 tsp star anise powder, freshly ground
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seed powder
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder, organic preferred

Instructions

  • Soak the dried glass noodle in plenty of cold or room temperature water at least 4 hours ahead of cooking. Turn the glass noodles from time to time during the soaking process to ensure all glass noodles are soaked properly and evenly.
  • When they are done, cut the rehydrated glass noodles into spaghetti length using a pair of kitchen scissors.
    rehydrated vs. dried purple sweet potato glass noodle
  • Marinate the pork. Add ground pork, along with everything under the "For Marinating the Pork in a glass mixing bowl. Mix well using a bamboo spatula and then turn the spatula in the same direction and churn the whole thing into a smooth marinated pork paste.
  • Gather all other ingredients. Mince ginger and garlic, and chop the green onion into small pieces. Add everything under "For the Sauce" in a small bowl and mix well.
    Ingredients for making Ma Yi Shang Shu {Sichuan Style Glass Noodle Stir Fry}
  • Turn the heat to medium-high and heat a hard-anodized fry pan for 1 minute.
  • Add 1/4 tsp oil using a homemade oil spryer, along with minced ginger and garlic and about 80% of the chopped green onion. Save some chopped green onion for garnishing.
  • Stir fry for about 10 seconds or till fragrant and then add the marinated ground pork, quickly separate the pork using a spatula, fry for 5 minutes, or till the pork is fully cooked.
    Fry Marinated Minced Pork in the Pan
  • Pour the sauce from the small bowl in a circular motion into the pan. Fold into the pork and cook till it reaches a boil, and then add the rehydrated glass noodles.
    Add rehydrated glass noodle to the pan with sauce
  • Quickly toss, lift and mix the glass noodles with the sauce in the pan using a pair of bamboo spatulas or kitchen tongs. Cook until the glass noodle becomes soft and looks plump and has absorbed almost all the juice in the pan.
    Cooking Ma Yi Shang Shu {Glass Noodle Stir Fry} in the Pan
  • All done. Garnish with the remaining chopped green onion and serve immediately. Enjoy a satisfyingly delicious Ma Yi Shang Shu {蚂蚁上树}.
    Ma Yi Shang Shu {Sichuan Style Glass Noodle Stir Fry}
  • See notes for how to make a vegetarian or vegan version.

Notes

  • Substitute ground pork with soft scrambled eggs for a vegetarian version. Prepare the soft scrambled eggs, the same way as the Yang Zhou Style Fried Rice, and then add minced ginger, garlic, and chopped onion and pour in the sauce.
  • Substitute ground pork with dried shiitake for a vegan version. Soak the dried shiitake in plenty of water a the same time when you soak dried glass noodles. Also, use room temperature or cold tap water.
  • See here on how to grind tasty pork at home for delicious pork filling.
  • Use a spice grinder and turn organic wholesome spices into powder.
  • If you prefer a mild spicy level, use 1/2 tbsp Pi Xian Doubanjiang, 1 tbsp for a moderate spicy level,

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 208Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 1464mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 12g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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