Ants climbing on a tree recipe

Posted on August 7, 2012


I haven’t gone mad. There really is a dish called “ants climbing on a tree”, ask wikipedia if you don’t believe me! Sometimes literal translations just don’t work huh? Some names end up sounding quite strange when translated directly into English, but I think they sound rather poetic in the original language. So anyhow, ants climbing on a tree is a Chinese dish, Sichuan to be exact. In essence it’s a spicy stir fried minced pork and bean thread noodle dish. The mince clinging onto the bean thread noodles (also known as vermicelli) is said to resemble ants walking amongst twigs, and that is how a name was born.

I first tried this dish at Melbourne’s infamous Dainty Sichuan when they occupied Corrs Lane in the city.

My recipe will depart a little from the others I found online, because I was trying to replicate the version in my memory. I remember seeing quite a bit of fermented black bean scattered in the dish and have thus incorporated this in my recipe. I don’t think any of the recipes I’ve found online used fermented black bean, and I guess the chilli bean paste already has quite a few beans in it anyway. I actually really like seeing the bits of black bean through my noodles because they look even more like ants to me than the mince does! Fermented black beans are quite salty, so if you decide not to use them you may need to add a bit of salt for seasoning.

Also I omitted mushrooms because I don’t recall Dainty’s version featuring them, but you could always add them in if you wanted to incorporate a vegetable element.

RECIPE – Ants climbing on a tree (serves up to 4)


  • 300g bean thread noodles
  • 200g mince pork
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • ~2cm piece of ginger minced
  • 2 spring onions chopped (white part only)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns coarsely grounded
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black beans
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chilli bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons oil for cooking


  1. In a bowl, marinade the mince pork in 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sugar.
  2. Soak bean thread noodles in a bowl of boiling water until softened and pliable (~5 minutes). Drain.
  3. In a hot wok, add 1 tablespoon oil and brown mince until ~80% cooked. Remove from wok and reserve.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in wok, add in garlic, ginger, spring onions and sichuan peppercorns. Stir fry until fragrant.
  5. Add in pork, drained bean thread noodles, fermented black beans and shaoxing wine. Fry until pork is cooked through.
  6. Lastly stir in the chilli bean paste.
  7. Garnish with chopped spring onions (the green bits).

Serve with some steamed greens for a complete dinner. As a meal, this served 3 rather hungry people, but could potentially be enough to feed 4. This dish packs a real punch. I love the zingy sichuan pepper, salty hit from the black beans and the heat from the chilli bean paste. Deliciously addictive!