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Ma Yi Shang Shu - Ants Climbing a Tree

Ma Yi Shang Shu (Chinese ants climbing a tree)

(Chinese cellophane noodles with ground pork)

Average: 4.5 (8 votes)

Ants climbing a tree (má yǐ shàng shù, 蚂蚁上树) is a Szechuan dish that gets its name from the resemblance of the small pieces of pork to ants on noodle "branches." Because it is easy and cheap to make, ants climbing trees is a traditional favorite of Chinese college students.

3 to 4 servings


  • Cellophane noodles -- 2 ounces, or 4 small packets
  • Hot water -- to cover noodles
  • Ground pork -- 1 pound
  • Soy sauce -- 2 tablespoons
  • Rice wine (optional) -- 2 tablespoons
  • Cornstarch -- 1 tablespoon
  • Salt -- 1 teaspoon
  • Oil -- 3 tablespoons
  • Scallions, finely chopped -- 4 to 6
  • Hot bean paste -- 1 to 2 tablespoons
  • Sugar -- big pinch
  • Water or chicken stock -- 1 1/2 cups


  1. Place the cellophane noodles in a large bowl and pour hot water over them to cover. Set aside for 10 minutes to let the noodles soften, then drain and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork, soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch and salt.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or large pot over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and stir fry for about 1 minute. Then add the hot bean paste and then the pork and stir fry, breaking up the pork, until cooked through.
  4. Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the drained noodles, chicken stock or water and the sugar. Simmer for about 5 minutes, adjust seasoning and serve.

Ma Yi Shang Shu Variations

  • Use ground beef instead of the ground pork if you like.
  • Cellophane noodles are also known as sai fun, mung bean noodles or bean thread noodles. Try cooked ramen noodles if you can't find cellophane noodles.
  • Add a little sesame oil at the end for a boost in flavor.
  • Different vegetables can be added as well. Try shiitake mushrooms, shredded carrots or shredded Chinese cabbage. Stir fry the vegetables before you add the pork.

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