What's Inside Chinese Sausage?

Chinese sausage is a generic term that encompasses a variety of sausages from China, where they were made as early as 300-500 AD. It can be made with fresh pork, pork fat, livers, and sometimes chicken, and tends to be as sweet as it is salty, with a rich, dense, emulsified texture. 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. If you've eaten yang chow fried rice, you've tried Chinese sausages. It is also a common ingredient in sautéed noodles and clay pot dishes. I still remember my first bite of Chinese sausage. It was wrapped in a soft, fluffy bun that had been steamed. The Cantonese name for Chinese sausage is lap cheong.

Not as well known outside of China, it is a spicy variety from the Sichuan region. Chinese sausage can be smoked and dried, or fresh. It can be fat or lean. The variety made with pork and small cubes of fat is the most common, but the best variety I've tried in my life was made with duck liver. When you go to an Asian grocery store to buy Chinese sausages, know that there are many types.

You'll find the short ones, the thick ones, the thin ones, and the color can range from chocolate to a dull red. Shape and color define variety. Thin, dark sausages are probably made with pork or duck liver. The dull red ones with bright white spots are probably made with pork and pork fat.

It's not easy to tell just by looking at it, especially when the labels don't include any English translation. It's best to ask the retailer to explain the differences between the sausages on display so you can get exactly what you want. Dried Chinese sausages are sold in vacuum-sealed containers. Check the expiration date first and know that, unopened, sausages do not require refrigeration. Once you open the package and have taken the amount of sausages you need for a plate, wrap the remaining sausages tightly in cling film and store them in the freezer.

Better yet, if you have a vacuum sealer, re-seal the remaining sausages. That way they'll last longer. Chinese sausage can be cooked in many ways: as a filling for a steamed bun; cut into slices and dropped into raw rice in a rice cooker; minced and included in sautéed dishes; or arranged as a topping for congee. It is one of the traditional ingredients of yang chow fried rice. Chinese sausage is used as an ingredient in quite a few dishes in the southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Sichuan and Hunan, and also in Hong Kong, Taiwan. In Burmese it is called kyet u gyaung (chicken sausage) or wet u gyaung (pork sausage).

Sichuan sausage also contains red chili powder, Sichuan pepper powder and Pixian bean sauce to characterize sausage with a special flavor. Chinese sausages are generally available in Asian supermarkets outside of Asia, mostly vacuum-packed although some Chinese grocery stores also sell the varieties unpackaged. Taiwan also produces a similar form of sausage; however they are rarely dried in the manner of Cantonese sausages. The flavor of Chinese sausage varies a bit depending on the ingredients used but it generally tastes sweet and savory. Many of the Chinese sausages sold in Canada are produced by several manufacturers based in Vancouver and Toronto.

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