Monday, April 23, 2012

there are ants in our kitchen!!! - S14E22

So, we've been a bit lax on blogging lately, but I wanted to bring you this delicious dish from Good Eats, called "Ants in Trees".  Sounds appetizing, right?  Despite the quirky name, this recipe turned out a fantastic meal.  The name comes from the way the ground meat sticks to the noodles, looking like Ants climbing tree branches.

Since we chose to halve the recipe for our first go round, there were no leftovers at all, which means we'll have to make it again soon!! This recipe uses ingredients available either at the local Asian market (hello Ranch 99) or at larger specialty grocers (Whole Foods and the like).  It was a bit more labor intensive than simple baking or roasting dishes, but no more so than a Pad Thai.  Without further a do, let's get cooking!

Ants in Trees
Makes 4 entree servings


- 4 1/2 ounces mung bean noodles (these are in the International section of Whole Foods)
- 2 ounces soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice wine (we used Rice Wine Vinegar instead)
- 1 tbsp sambal chili paste
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 10 ounces (a little over 1/2 a pound) ground pork  (we used ground turkey thigh instead)
- 1 tsp canola oil (we prefer peanut for Asian dishes)
- 4 green onions, chopped, divided
- 1/2 cup chicken broth

Let's get those Ants in our Trees!!We began as usual by gathering our ingredients in a mise-en-place, which I didn't manage to capture a picture of...
Once you have all your ingredients, it's time to soak the mung bean noodles in enough hot water (about 110 degrees F) to cover by 1 inch for 20 minutes.

While those are soaking, grab a medium sized bowl and combine the soy sauce, rice wine, and chili paste, whisking until smooth. Add the cornstarch and whisk until that is incorporated into your mixture.  Once you have your marinade mixture prepared, add the ground pork/turkey and mix with your hands until the liquid coast the meat (about 2 minutes).  Set that mixture aside for 30 minutes in a saran wrap covered bowl in your refrigerator (no need to get your dinner companions sick with improperly handled meat!)

When your noodle soaking timer dings, use kitchen shears to cut the noodles into 3 to 4-inch pieces and drain thoroughly in a colander for 10 minutes.  About 1/8-1/4 cup of liquid will come out and your dry noodles will stick better to your ants (meat).

Place a 12-inch saute pan over high heat for 1 minute.   Once heated, add your preferred high heat oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom and sides. Once the oil shimmers*, then add your marinated meat mixture. Stir constantly for 2 minutes, breaking the meat up into very small pieces you will get some splatter, we recommend using a splatter shield over your pan (Naris got some oil in his eye a month ago and it was quite scary!!).
no eye burning here!
Next, add 2/3 of the green onions and continue stirring until the meat is well browned and in very small pieces (approximately 2 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the 1/2 cup chicken broth. Cook until reduced (it won't be syrupy but should be slightly thickened), approximately 3 minutes.
note the broth is now more of a gravy consistency
Slowly add handfuls of the noodles to the pan (tongs are great for this, we like these rubber tipped ones), tossing with the meat mixture until combined and the pieces of meat cling to the noodles and no liquid remains (I switched to the tongs to stir, so I didn't have multiple implements lying around). Serve immediately with the remaining fresh cut green onions, you can go for normal sized bowls but it can be fun to chow down out of a communal bowl too!
nom nom nom, just need a bit more mixing
super blurry photo, but delicious noodles!

The Verdict:

Jesse:  This was a pretty straight forward noodle dish, by only gripe was the quantity of bowls used to make it and the spice level.  But I loved the taste (washing the spice out with a glass of milk) and it would make a great leftover dish!  And at $6.36 for a half batch, this is definitely a win over restaurant noodles!

Home cooking: 11, Restaurants: 2

Naris:  Aside from the spiciness, I enjoyed coming home to this meal :)

Home cooking: 12, Restaurants: 1

Until we cook again,
Cost Breakdown:
We ended up going to Whole Food and Ranch 99, but you could get all the ingredients at one store, if you weren't crazy and didn't try to get the lowest price on everything!

- mung bean noodles - $2.19
- soy sauce  - on hand, price unknown 
- rice wine - on hand, price unknown 
- sambal chili paste - $0.40 (for portion used)
- cornstarch - on hand, price unknown
- ground turkey thigh - $3.44
- peanut oil  - on hand, price unknown 
- green onions - $1.29 per bunch (use 1/4 of the bunch)- $0.33
- chicken broth - on hand, price unknown
TOTAL: $6.36 for ingredients to make a half batch
*Heating your oil to a shimmering state helps prevent sticking in your pan, wondering how to check for the proper temperature?!?  See more details at


  1. this happens to be one of my favorite dishes of my moms... yum yum indeed!

  2. I make "Ants in Trees" all the time! Easy to customize to your taste too!