Also called Ma Yi Shang Shu, Ants on a Tree is a Sichuan Chinese classic whose English name sparks debate to this day. According to most sources, whoever saw this dish visualized the tender noodles as tree branches, the soft, sweet, and earthy cabbage as leaves, and the juicy, savory ground pork as ants. It’s quite an interesting image, but it doesn’t quite sell how amazing Ants on a Tree tastes! The sauce is tangy, smoky-sweet, and aromatic, with notes of nuttiness and deep umami, perfect for bringing out the best in each bite. Its name might provoke interpretation, but its flavor rings loud and clear!

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  • 1/2 pound rice, bean, or egg vermicelli
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons Doubanjiang bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 5 cups cabbage, shredded, or coleslaw mix
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 3 green onions, sliced


Step 1 –Cook the vermicelli until al dente according to the package directions. Drain and rinse the noodles.

Step 2 –Heat a large wok or sauté pan over high heat. Drizzle in the sesame oil, swirling it around the pan to coat it.

Step 3 –Add the pork and cook, using a spatula to break the pork up into little pieces, until browned and crispy, about 5 minutes.

Step 4 –In a small bowl, add the bean paste, tamari, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and chicken stock together, whisking to combine.

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Step 5 –Add the garlic and ginger to the pan with the pork, cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Step 6 –Add the cabbage to the pork mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Step 7 –Reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the cabbage is soft, about 3-5 minutes.

Step 8 –Add the noodles to the pork mixture, tossing to combine.

Step 9 –Pour in the sauce and toss to combine.

Step 10 –Add the green onions, tossing to combine.

Step 11 –Season to taste.

Step 12 –Serve.