Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Ants on the tree, as weird and unorthordox as it may sound, this sweet potato noodle dish is actually a hardcore traditional recipe in Sichuan cuisine.
Without doubt, the long sweet potato noodle is the “Tree”.
However, what are the “Ants”? There are different opinions on it.
I always thought that the minced meat are the ants. Until a few months ago, I learned from my Chinese cooking guru’s new recipe videos, that “Yi Bin Ya Cai” - pickled mustard greens are the real ants. It is the essential ingredient to make the most authentic Ants On The Tree.
So, what is “Yi Bin Ya Cai”?
They are originally mustard greens, sun-dried, pickled, fermented and shredded into fine tiny pieces. It is a very typical produce in the Sichuan region, the name of the DOP city (Yi Bin) is in the product name itself.
Ants On The Tree Recipe:
I have tried to adjust my ants on the tree recipe for years, but it always lacked a unique light sour flavour compared to the original dish. I tried different types of vinegar, pickled chillies, etc, but nope, these were not it.
Yi Bin Ya Cai is the magic ingredient. The fermentation and pickling process completely turned the original ingredients to something else. The light sour flavour flying in the back of the tongue, it completes the recipe.
This definitely has opened a new door for me. I started to blend in some Yi Bin Ya Cai in a lot other dishes, enjoying the depth of flavours it brings. I highly recommend you to grab them in the Chinese/Asian supermarkets!
Some practicalities of the recipe:
1. It’s okay if you can’t find the pickled mustard greens.
The recipe still works very well without it. It will be no doubt a tasty sweet potato dish that you could easily eat 3 bowls of rice with. What the Yi Bin Ya Cai does is to add depth, interesting features and making it the most authentic Ants on the Tree recipe.
2. Enjoy the dish with some plain rice/noodles/carbs.
Yes sweet potato noodles are already an carbs explosion. However, the flavours from this recipe is so strong that it will be too overwhelming to have it alone.
3. Glass noodles are a good replacement for sweet potato noodles.
You can totally use glass noodles instead. Soak the glass noodles in warm water in advance to make it soft, and skip the initial boiling process.
Enjoy the big bang of flavours that Ants On The Tree is going to bring!
Download the detailed Ants On The Tree Recipe below:
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