What is a Chinese Sausage?

Cassie L. Damewood

Chinese sausage refers to any number of ground, spiced meat mixtures packed in casings and used in Chinese cooking. Depending on the area of origin and the desired result, the ingredients may include a wide range of parts from animals and fowl. These typically include pigs, turkeys and chickens. Beef is sometimes used in specialty Chinese sausage although its use is rare.

Chinese sausages consist of spiced, ground meat packed in casings.
Chinese sausages consist of spiced, ground meat packed in casings.

There are dozens of types of sausages made in the various provinces of China as well as throughout other Asian countries. The Chinese sausages found on most traditional Chinese restaurant menus and in Chinese markets typically fall into two categories: Lap Chong and Yeung Cheong. Both are popular additions to a number of Chinese dishes.

Lap Chong is often considered the most popular variety of Chinese sausage. It normally contains only pork meat and fat from the pork flesh, sweeteners and seasonings. In a Chinese market, Lap Chong is typically the dried link sausage variety seen hanging in the windows. This type of thin sausage is generally about 6 inches (approximately 15 cm) long and 1 inch (approximately 2.5 cm) in diameter.

The other most common type of Chinese sausage is Yeung Cheong. Instead of pork flesh, its main ingredient is normally pork liver. Unlike Lap Chong, Yeung Cheong is savory in taste, with no hint of sweetness in the mixture. It is customarily darker in color than Lap Chong due to its liver content.

Both sausages are common ingredients in a number of Chinese dishes. The links are typically sliced into rounds or diced, cooked with vegetables and served over rice or mixed in with noodles. In dim sum, a well-liked steamed dumpling appetizer dish, the sausage casings are removed, and the meat inside is cooked as part of the dim sum filling.

Centuries ago, when the first Chinese sausages were handmade, the ground meat was traditionally packed into sheep and lamb stomach casings and twisted into links by hand. It was typically made in the summer to aid in the drying process. Summer production also provided less humidity, which prevented the sausage from spoiling.

Today, Chinese sausage is generally mass-produced in factories around the world and vacuum packed before it is shipped to restaurants and supermarkets. Some privately owned and operated traditional Chinese markets and restaurants that adhere to time-honored preparations still make the product by hand. It is widely available for purchase online for consumers who do not have access to Chinese markets. Recipes for home sausage making can be found in Chinese cookbooks and on Chinese cooking websites.

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