Lap cheong are cured, dried raw-meat sausages which are quite hard in texture, and require cooking before eating. Lap Cheong is the Cantonese name for wind-dried Chinese sausages, and literally means ‘Wax Sausages’, referring to the waxy look and texture of the sausages.
These cured sausages and close variants are enjoyed in countries all over the Far East including the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as western countries with large populations of Chinese diaspora.
Their flavour will vary depending on ingredients used, however lap cheong typically have a sweet-savoury taste. They are most commonly made out of pork and pork fat, but other varieties can be include liver or cuttlefish, or even be made with beef or chicken. With an increased interest in healthy eating, lower fat and sodium varieties are becoming available in many countries.
Chinese wind-dried sausages are prepared in a similar way to other sausages. Meat is chopped or minced up, usually with pork fat, and seasoned before being stuffed into sausage skins and then left to air and dry out in a very cool oven, or in a well-ventilated room.
The meat is sometimes left more coarse, to provide bite and texture to the finished sausage. Besides usually having a high fat content, the meat mix can sometimes include offal such as liver. Usual seasoning ingredients include light soy sauce, salt, sugar and Chinese Rose Wine (Mei Kwei Lu). Spices such as Chinese Five Spice, Sichuan Pepper Powder and chilli powder can be added to the mix to give the sausages a different flavour.
The stuffed sausages are hung and left to dry out in a well ventilated room for approximately 1 week. Dehydrating the meat, along with the addition of salt and sugar (and sometimes other curing agents) cures and preserves the meat. During this time, the salt and curing agents act to prevent the growth of micro-organisms and stop the meat from going rancid.
Lap Cheong may be cooked and eaten on their own, but also works well with rice and vegetables and can be used as an ingredient in other dishes, such as fried rice dishes and glutinous rice parcels.
Lap Cheong can be easily cooked alongside rice by adding it on top of the steaming rice, either using a metal dish stand, or directly onto the partially-cooked rice. This second method imparts the flavours of the sausage into the cooking rice very nicely. If not cooking rice, it can just as easily be steamed in a covered dish over a pan of boiling water until they have become slightly translucent. The cooked sausage can now be thinly sliced and eaten as it is, or added to other dishes such as stir-fried dishes.
Other cured Chinese meats that you might be interested in are wind-dried Chinese bacon (strips of cured fat pork belly meat) and wind-dried duck.