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Noodles! Ants Climbing A Tree

Ants Climbing A Tree (aka Ma Yi Shang Shu) is an easy lunch/dinner for one. Saute ginger, garlic, spicy bean paste, and pork. Add broth and soy sauce. Boil with noodles. Then eat! Recipe below ^_^

Hot, steamy noodles. So ready to eat!

I love these noodles and make them often. Once you see how easy it is to prepare, I hope you'll be making it often as well. It's also randomly impressive heheh ^_^

A friend was at our home one day and ending up stay longer than expected. I pulled together this dish for lunch in 15 minutes, and man it hit the spot! We were both super satisfied.

Ants Climbing A Tree / Ma Yi Shang Shu

This is a popular Chinese dish and the original name is Ma Yi Shang Shu. In the US, this dish is better known as Ants Climbing A Tree.

It's a dish made from vermicelli noodles (aka glass noodles) with ground pork and green onions. The flavor comes from a mix of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and doubanjiang (spicy fermented bean paste, more on this below).

All you need is some chicken stock to bring it all together.

This is not a soup dish, and it's not a fried noodle dish. It's somewhere in the middle. The noodles are warming, steamy, and satisfies to the core. It's an incredibly comforting noodle dish.

Get the pantry ingredients, then you can make this dish any time, all the time ^_^

Why Is It Called Ants Climbing A Tree?

The ground pork are the "ants." The vermicelli noodles are the "trees." The ground pork cling to the noodles, like ants climbing a tree.

As a kid, I always wondered if this was how "ants on a log" (raisins and peanut butter on a celery stick) got its name. Does anyone know?

We use this brand of dried vermicelli noodles (look for the bag with the pink netting)

Main Ingredients

This is a good "emergency" dish because it requires mostly all pantry ingredients. The only fresh ingredients needed are ground pork and green onions, which we usually have in the freezer/fridge.

The other key ingredients are:

  • Doubanjiang (spicy fermented bean paste) - This is a staple Chinese pantry ingredient (it's also a key ingredient for mapo tofu and many other dishes). If you can find this brand, great! Definitely get that one. If not, this Lee Kum Kee brand is the one I usually see in the market (and is the one pictured in this post).
  • Dark soy sauce - Dark soy sauce is thicker, darker, and more caramel-y. It is less salty than light soy sauce.
  • Light soy sauce - Light soy sauce is thinner and lighter in color. It is more salty than dark soy sauce. Light soy sauce is considered the regular/default soy sauce.
  • Dried vermicelli noodles - Also called glass noodles. You can find it at most Chinese markets. In Hawai we can even purchase it at Costco Hawaii and Longs Drugs, our local drugstore. We use the brand that comes wrapped in pink netting. That bag has 8 bundles of dried vermicelli noodles. I consider 2 bundles to be one serving, so one bag can make four servings. See below:

My Vermicelli Noodle Pick:

We keep several bags of dried vermicelli at home. I use them to make Chicken Long Rice pretty often. They also come in handy for noodle soups and stir fries.

Soak the dried vermicelli noodles in cold water for 10 minutes before cooking

Substitutions and Adjustments

Don't have dark soy sauce and light soy sauce?

No worries. Just replace them both with "regular" soy sauce (such as Kikkoman or Aloha).

Ground pork substitutions?

Ground pork is "traditional" but can be replaced with ground chicken, beef, or even turkey. If you want to go vegetarian, get a block of fried tofu and chop it into small cubes.

How saucy do you like your noodles?

If you want the noodles to be more wet/saucy, increase the broth amount by a tablespoon at a time.

Love noodles?

So do we! Here are a few other noodle dishes we love to make:
- Chicken Long Rice (which uses the same type of noodles)
- Chicken Hekka (also uses the same type of noodles!)
- Pancit Bihon
- Somen Salad
- Fried Saimin


The formal recipe outlined in detail at the bottom of this post, but the general method is:

  1. Soak noodles in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Saute ginger, garlic, and doubanjiang. After a few minutes, add the ground pork.
  3. Add the liquids (chicken stock, dark and light soy sauce). Boil and add the noodles.
  4. Let the noodles soak up the liquid over medium heat. Stir in the chopped green onions right before eating.

So easy, so good.

Everything coming together in our small pot (the same pot we use to make saimin heheh)

How To Eat This Dish

I just slide the finished dish into a big bowl and devour. This dish is big reward for little effort. Imagine having this for lunch in the middle of the work day! Little pleasures ^_^

My dad says the traditional way to eat Ants Climbing A Tree is with rice. Interesting, right? After you pour the prepared dish into your bowl, add a scoop of hot rice to your bowl. You eat the noodles and rice, side by side, in the same bowl.

If I happen to have hot rice ready in the rice cooker, then I do this for sure. If not, the noodles alone make a great meal.

Ready to eat!

Ants Climbing A Tree Recipe

See below for the recipe! This version is adapted from The Woks of Life. You can double the recipe for two (this is what I do for dinner with my husband). But don't triple the recipe because it gets hard to mix the noodles with everything evenly. Hope you enjoy ^_^

Ants Climbing A Tree Noodles

Ants Climbing A Tree Noodles

Yield: Lunch/dinner for one
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Also known by the original name, Ma Yi Shang Shu, this noodle recipe makes an easy lunch/dinner for one. Saute ginger, garlic, spicy bean paste, and pork. Add broth and soy sauce. Boil with the noodles. Then eat and enjoy!


    1. Soak the dried vermicelli noodles in a bowl of cold water 10 minutes before you begin cooking. Drain and set aside.
    2. In a small pot over medium heat, saute the minced ginger and garlic with a bit of oil. Saute for 2-3 minutes (just until it starts to turn golden). Add the doubanjiang, and saute one more minute. 
    3. Add the ground pork, and saute another 2 minutes until the pork is cooked.  
    4. Pour the chicken stock, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce into the pot. Bring everything to a boil and the add the drained vermicelli noodles. Continue cooking over medium heat for another 1-2 minutes (until the noodles soak up all the broth). 
    5. Add the chopped green onions, mix quickly, and then pour into a bowl. Enjoy ^_^


  • Dark and light soy sauce and be substituted with regular soy sauce.
  • Ground pork can be replaced with ground chicken, beef, or turkey.
  • Recipe adapted from The Woks of Life.
Mahalo for Reading!

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