What is Chinese Sausage? A Comprehensive Guide

Chinese sausage is a type of sausage that originated in China and is usually a sweetened, salted, and smoked version of dried pork. It can contain ingredients such as soy sauce, rice wine, and rose water, and is usually made with fresh pork, lard, liver, and sometimes chicken. It has a rich, dense, emulsified texture and is as sweet as it is savory. Pork is the most popular meat used in Chinese sausages, and the Chinese have a long-standing love for it.

In fact, there's a saying that their love for pork prevented them from converting to Islam. A pig is one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac calendar. Although most Chinese sausages are made from pure pork, other meats such as beef, chicken, duck or lamb are often added. Pork liver or duck liver are often added to liver sausages. It is generally accepted that the Chinese were already making sausages 2000 years ago.

Any reliable information about sausage manufacturing in China dates back to the 5th century and some of the techniques are still used today. As in other countries, there is no universally followed sausage recipe, but each region of the country develops its own variation, even though the name remains the same. The Chinese name for sausages is “Lap Cheong”, which means “winter filled intestine” or “waxed intestine” because “cheong” not only means “intestine” but also “sausage”.This sausage is normally dried in air or over low heat. Sausage is used as an ingredient in many dishes in parts of southern China, such as Hong Kong and Southeast Asian countries. It is used, for example, in fried rice dishes, noodles and other dishes.

Chinese sausage formulations are unique, based on a long tradition. Ingredients such as soy sauce and sugar are added to sausages at very high levels. Chinese rice wines, distilled spirits, or even whiskey or sherry are commonly added to sausages. Traditional Chinese recipes, similar to Italian recipes for salamis, have been passed down from generation to generation without much understanding of the underlying processes. They are the result of errors and testing procedures; however they are modified today to comply with the safety regulations of the China Meat Safety Department. Sausages are consumed all year round but their consumption is highest in February during the Chinese New Year.

Approximately 6 inches long Chinese sausage is darker and thinner than Western sausages. The most common variety is made with pork and pork fat but you'll also find other varieties made with duck liver or even beef. Manufacturers are also starting to offer varieties reduced in fat and sodium; however in the West it is currently easier to find standard pork sausages. Handmade Chinese sausage uses ground pork guts and pig intestine. Pork should be in the right portion of fat and lean meat so that the texture of the sausage is the best.

The ground pork with added condiments is stuffed in the guts and then hung under the ceiling to dry naturally. Sometimes people smoke sausages or use sheep's intestines for their guts. Chinese sausage complements rice and vegetable dishes very well. The easiest way to cook sausage is to add it to steamed rice (see How to Cook Chinese Sausages for more information). There are premixed combinations available in stores; one of the most popular being five-spice powder - a common combination being star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, Chinese cinnamon and Sichuan pepper. Chinese sausage is a famous traditional processed meat in China; its safety is attracting more and more attention due to contamination by chemical contaminants especially nitrosamines and their precursors (nitrates nitrites etc.).

The latter is not derived from Chinese sausage but derives its name from the use of star anise which is associated with Chinese cuisine in the Philippines. Although you might see different levels of dryness and different types of meat combinations most Chinese sausages are made with sweet pork fat and have an addiction to sweetness. In fact a common meal in many Chinese restaurants is duck eggs with sausages and rice; sausages are steamed over rice. Chinese sausages are a good combination for frying with lots of vegetables such as garlic cauliflower and spicy cabbage but the best way is to steam them and eat them with sauce which will give it an intense and delicate flavor. Sausages made in the Chinese province of Sichuan should be hotter than similar sausages made in different regions. Because of the salty flavor of sausages they are used sparingly with other ingredients to balance the flavor. In the past sugar was often mentioned in sausage recipes that used sodium nitrate (cures 1 and 2 were not yet available).

It is well established that the higher the lean meat in the sausage recipe the better the quality of the sausage and La Cheong is no exception.Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Chinese people really like adding MSG (flavor enhancer) to meat and sausages. Soy sauce and sugar will compensate for any sour taste that might have developed if the sausage had dried slowly for example at 38°C (100° F). In Burmese sausage is called kyet u gyaung (chicken sausage) or wet u gyaung (pork sausage). I learned how to do it from my Chinese ex-wife who always cooked it by putting it on top of rice while it was steamed.

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