Chinese sausages have been around since 300-500 AD, and they have a unique flavor that sets them apart from other sausages. They are usually made with pork and pork fat, but you can also find varieties made with duck liver or beef. The most common variety is sweet and emulsified, with a texture that makes it taste like meat caramel. It is a popular ingredient in many dishes, such as yang chow fried rice, sautéed noodles, and clay pot dishes.
The Cantonese name for Chinese sausage is lap cheong, and it is not as well known outside of China. It 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 was made with duck liver.
When you go to an Asian grocery store to buy Chinese sausages, 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, while 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. The easiest way to cook Chinese sausages is to cut them into slices and drop the slices with raw rice into a rice cooker.
By the time the rice is ready, the sausages will be too. And since sausages get fat in the heat, your rice will smell and taste great. Chinese sausages can also be minced and included in sautéed dishes. It is one of the traditional ingredients of yang chow fried rice. They can also be added to congee, mixed or arranged as a topping. Goin Chong Chinese liver sausage is made with pork or duck livers; however, it is a specialty item that is not widely available outside of China.
Northern Europeans don't particularly like dry sausages from southern Europe, and of course Italians or Spaniards don't care much about smoked products. Chinese sausage complements rice and vegetable dishes very well. As a filling for a steamed bun or added to steamed rice, it adds flavor and texture to any dish. Growing up eating Kam Yen Jan at home with my parents and at my cousin's house, I also ate Chinese sausages at some of my favorite Asian restaurants. While lap cheong sausages are easily found in Asian grocery stores, they are even better prepared at home. The only trick to using fresh lap cheong is to carefully control the browning process since the sugar content of the meat makes sausage slices easy to burn. Chinese red pork sausages are usually in a vacuum-sealed package and can be found in the refrigerator section of your local 99 Ranch or another Asian store.
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