I love the noodles known in Cantonese as fen si, or in English as mung bean vermicelli, bean thread noodles, glass noodles and cellophane noodles. They have different textures, depending on how they're prepared. In soups, they absorb the broth and become slippery and difficult to pick up with chopsticks, but in “dry” dishes, such as this one, they have an interesting springy texture. They can also be mixed with vegetables and meat or seafood to add bulk to spring-roll fillings.
The noodles should be soaked in hot (but not boiling) water to hydrate them so they are pliable.
The name of this dish visualises the bits of meat clinging to mung bean noodles as ants climbing a tree. It’s a fast meal to cook – not including the time needed to soak the noodles, the ingredients take less than 15 minutes to prepare.
If you don’t eat pork, use minced chicken instead, or, for a vegetarian version, use a minced meat substitute.
Put the noodles in a bowl and add hot water to cover. Leave to soak for about 15 minutes, then drain in a colander.
Marinate the pork while the vermicelli is soaking. Put the pork in a bowl and add the soy sauce, rice wine, salt and 5ml (1tsp) of oil. Mix well, then leave for about 15 minutes
Mix the chilli bean paste with the sugar. Mince the spring onion.
Heat a wok or skillet over a medium flame, then pour in 15ml (1tbsp) of oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork and use a metal spatula to break up the meat into small pieces. Add the chilli bean paste/sugar mixture and stir well.
Add the noodles to the wok or skillet and mix thoroughly, then pour in the chicken or vegetable stock. Turn the flame to high so the liquid boils, then lower it to medium. Simmer while frequently lifting the noodles with chopsticks and mixing the ingredients. Cook until the noodles have absorbed the liquid.
Transfer the ingredients onto a serving dish, then scatter the spring onion on top and garnish with sprigs of fresh coriander. Serve immediately