What? These Chinese! They do eat everything! Now it is the cute ants!
Yes, indeed. For this dish you take 5 ant fillets (best is from the loin, as it is most tender)…
Nope, just kidding! I am not really talking about cooking ants for this dish. 😉
Well, I have to admit that we Chinese do like to eat a lot of things, sometimes also things that are quite strange for western people. Have you ever heard this saying about Chinese: “Chinese eat everything which has four legs except tables and chairs, and everything which can fly except airplanes.”? You know, every time when my international friends ask me about this “terrible” side of Chinese culinary habits, my answer is: “Well, part of this saying is true, but there is one BIG misconception: Not all of the Chinese, but only the Cantonese do!” Yes, the poor Cantonese from southern China have to sacrifice themselves and carry this bad reputation for their fellow countrymen. However, it is quite fair, because they indeed do eat more “strange” or “crazy” stuff than people from other parts of China. Where I come from, in Sichuan province, we don’t really eat too crazy things. OK, I have to admit, we also eat chicken feet, but come on! What are chicken feet, compare to snakes and insects?
Anyway, I don’t eat ants! But what kind of dish is this then? There is a very famous dish from my hometown called “ants climbing up the trees” (螞蟻上樹), which consists of minced meat and plenty of glass noodles. Since the tiny pieces of fried minced meat look like small ants and the glass noodles like the tree branches, some Chinese with extraordinary imagination gave this dish this extravagant name. I like this kind of romantic way of giving names to dishes. But sometimes it is really very difficult to decode what the dish actually consists of. There are names from which you might still be able to guess the main ingredients of the dish, like “Spittle chicken” (yes, I know, this doesn’t really sound mouth watering and anyway who is going to order a chicken which comes with spittle?). Actually this dish’s name is said to come from the fact that everyone started drooling when he or she heard about this chicken dish. So, these kinds of names are easy-peasy to guess. Then, what about “Phoenix Paw”, “Rolling donkey” or “Red lion head”? Now you will probably get a bit confused, maybe also a little bit curious and want to know what hides behind these dishes’ mysterious names. OK, I promise, I will give you the answers at the end of this text. (No! Don’t scroll! Patience is a virtue!) 😉
At least now you can guess what kind of dish mine is! On the photos you can see the “huge” forest (a.k.a. lettuce leaf), some small meat pieces and some glass noodles. Doesn’t it look like small ants climbing up and down the tree branches and feeling lost in the giant forest? So I decided to give my dish the extravagant name: “Lost ants in the forest” (迷失森林的螞蟻)! You see, even fifteen years of living in Europe couldn’t help me to get rid of this “terrible” habit from my Chinese roots: giving nothing-saying-names to dishes. But, as I admitted, I love these kinds of funny names! You cannot guess what you are going to get to eat, but after having read the name once, you will never forget that dish!
Now back to my dish: “Lost ants in the forest”. As I already mentioned, my recipe was inspired by the famous Sichuan-dish “Ants climbing up the trees”. But instead of minced meat I took chicken chest filets and sliced them into mini cubs. To increase the taste I used some pickled vegetable. Since I prefer to serve this dish as a starter or as finger food, I decided to use a fresh lettuce leaf as a kind of wrap. The refreshing taste and crunchy bite of the lettuce leaf blends very well with the aromatic and spicy taste of the chicken. And the glass noodles balance these different tastes in the best way.
I am so happy to see my creation work out really very well! Wrap it and enjoy the “ants”!
Ingredients (6 Portions as a starter or finger food):
200g chicken breast filet
3 red and 3 green chillies
100g pickled vegetables (brown mustard, if you can find this in the Asia shop)
50g roasted peanuts (crushed)
10g grated ginger
10g pressed garlic
20g glass noodles
Some leaves of lettuce
For the marinade:
2g sea salt
10g cooking wine
2g soy sauce
10g sesame oil
25g potato starch
50g vegetable oil (e.g. canola)
- Soak glass noodles in hot water for 10 minutes. Then rinse with cold water and let drain on a sieve.
- Cut Chicken breast fillets into tiny cubes. Mix all ingredients for the marinade, add the chicken cubes, mix well and chill in the refrigerator.
- Wash and chop the chillies into small rings.
- Pour oil into the pan and heat on medium flame. Pour the marinated chicken into the pan, stir constantly. Take the chicken out of the pan and place on a paper towel. Fry ginger and garlic with the remaining oil for a short time.
- Then add the pickled vegetables with the chillies to the pan and fry for 1 minute. Add the chicken and keep stirring until it’s getting almost dry.
- Add sugar and sesame oil.
- Put some short cut glass noodles on each lettuce leaf, put the chicken mixture on top and garnish with crushed peanuts.
- Enjoy the ants! 😉
Oh yes, the answers for those crazy Chinese dish names!
Phoenix paw = chicken feet
Rolling donkey = glutinous rice rolls stuffed with red bean paste (the rice rolls are covered with roasted brown bean powder, which reminds some people of donkeys playing and rolling around on the dirty ground, getting covered in brown dust)
Red lion head = Braised meat ball in red-brown sauce (don’t ask me why lion head, not tiger head. I can only guess this might come from the lion dance during a Chinese traditional festival. The meatball supposedly looks like a mask of a lion head used for this festival).