Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chinese New Year Meal #2 - Ants Climbing a Tree

Now that we have started on our Chinese New Year meals for 2012, we are on a roll!  Well, it might be a bit premature to really claim to be on a roll since this is only our second meal this week, but I'm going to make the claim anyway because it is our second meal since Sunday and I have at least one more planned for this week (two if I get really ambitious).  So there.  I'm staking my claim.  With this meal I think we have accomplished the two traditional Chinese New Year dishes that I like to make every year - noodles and dumplings.  From here on out I am going to try to make a variety of different proteins (lamb is defrosting in the fridge right now, along with some chicken thighs) and a variety of different preparations.  I know that we tend to make a lot of recipes from our Fuchsia Dunlop cookbooks around Chinese New Year, but I am going to try to mix it up a little and throw in at least one Cantonese recipe, one northern Chinese recipe (although I guess the dumplings technically count there), and one Xinjiang-type recipe in with our typical Hunan and Sichuan dishes.  It's go time people.

There were two things that I really liked about this dish.  First and foremost, it was incredibly easy to make.  Literally anyone could make this dish if they had access to the equipment (a wok) and the ingredients (cellophane noodles, ground meat, soy sauce, chicken stock, chili bean paste, oil and scallions).  The only ingredient that might be hard to find is the chili bean paste.  Everything else should be readily available at your neighborhood grocery store.  Second, given how easy it was to make I was impressed by the level and layers of flavor.  The sauce is well balanced between salty and spicy, with a hint of funk from the chili bean paste.  And the cellophane noodles do a wonderful job of absorbing all of that wonderful flavor.  I was worried that they would become overcooked and mushy, but they held up to the cooking process quite well and were glossy and flavorful.  They were also a wee bit slippery so I would recommend wearing dark colors when eating this dish with chopsticks.  I thought we would have enough noodles for leftovers, but it was so tasty that Alex and I scarfed it all down.  We couldn't help ourselves.

Recipe after the jump!

Ants Climbing a Tree
Adapted from Land of Plenty
By Fuchsia Dunlop

1/4 lb bean thread noodles (aka cellophane noodles)
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
1/4 lb ground pork (or beef)
2 tbsp peanut oil
2 tsp light soy
1 1/2 tbsp chili bean paste
1 2/3 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp dark soy
3 scallions, green parts only, finely sliced

Soak noodles in hot water for 10 minutes (drain them just before cooking).  Add Shaoxing rice wine and a couple of generous pinches of salt to ground meat and mix well.

Add oil to wok and heat over high heat.  Add ground meat and stir-fry until lightly browned and crispy, about 3-4 minutes, adding about a tsp of light soy halfway through.  Add chili bean paste and stir-fry until oil and red and fragrant.  Remove the wok from the heat if it gets too hot and the chili bean paste-pork mixture begins to burn.  Add stock and drained noodles and stir well.  Add dark soy (dark soy is mostly for color, not flavor).  Bring stock to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and simmer over a medium flame for about 10 minutes, until the liquid has mostly evaporated and/or been absorbed.  Season to taste with light soy and salt.

Add scallions, mix well, and transfer to a serving dish.

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