Preserved Stuff For A Savory Winter

There has been a long tradition for the Chinese to make preserved meat in the winter months. In fact there is a popular saying in China--“when the wind of winter blows, preserved meet is made.”  Making preserved meet is also a custom for the Chinese New Year celebration, since in the past days when most of the Chinese still lived in poverty, pork was too luxurious to eat if it was not during the Chinese New Year. In order to keep the precious pork for a longer time, they salted the pork and dried them with various kinds of ways. The custom has passed down until today, not because of a longer shelf life for the fresh pork, but rather for a taste of winter and a remembrance of the old days.

There is a long list of preserved meat in the Chinese cookery, with the commonest ones being the Chinese sausage (Lap Cheung), waxed pork (Lap Yuk) and waxed duck (Lap Ngap). Dried meat made in different parts of China has varied taste. The Hunanese ones feature sort of sootiness taste, while their Cantonese counterparts are preserved with wine, soy sauce, sugar and salt and taste sweetish.

Basically there are two types of Lap Cheung. One is purely made of pork and the other of pork and duck liver mixture. They are smaller and thinner than western sausages, being texturally similar to pepperoni with a sweet-salty taste. Lap Cheung is so named because it was usually made during the lunar month of December, the 'Lap' month in ancient Chinese. It can be wind-dried (most common; cookery classics say the wind can preserve the meat's 'umami' whereas sunlight can enchant its 'scent'); baked or smoked (least common; because the sausage is already well-seasoned).

Dried food is either cooked with fresh ingredients or is simply steamed and served. Take Lap Cheung as an example, stir-fry it with greens is of course a brainy one; fry it with glutinous rice and eggs is also a laudable classic... yet the best way to fully appreciate this delicacy is to steam it with plain rice. As to stir fry dishes, some chefs combine both dried and fresh variety of the same items in a dish to create a contrast in the taste and texture.

Both Chinese sausages can be purchased in Asian markets, either fresh or prepackaged, and can be stored in refrigerators up to one month.