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Spicy Glass Noodles with Ground Pork
The peculiar name of this Sichuan classic—Ants Climbing a Tree—is a direct translation from the Mandarin. The little bits of pork clinging to the noodles are said to resemble ants climbing a tree. Thin and wiry, glass noodles go by a few different names, including cellophane noodles, bean threads and sai fun. We soak them in boiling water until softened but not fully tender, and they finish cooking to a bouncy, slippery texture in the skillet as they absorb the added chicken broth. The finished dish is quite dry, rather than saucy, the noodles having taken in much of the moisture and lots of flavor. Chinese chili bean paste called toban djan (sometimes spelled doubanjiang) provides spicy heat as well as deep savoriness and umami. Look for it sold in jars in the international aisle of the supermarket or in an Asian grocery store. If you are unable to source toban djan, 2 teaspoons red miso plus 3 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce is a decent approximation. If you like, drizzle the noodles with sesame oil before serving and offer steamed greens alongside to complete the meal.
ounces glass noodles (see headnote)
Boiling water, for soaking the noodles