THE MAGIC SAUSAGE: LUP CHEONG.
What’s sweet and savoury and brings a little magic to everything it touches? Chinese lup cheong, of course. Think of it as the bacon of Asia and you can’t go wrong.
Everyone has certain things they need to know are in the house at all times, or they get twitchy. Yours might not be the same as mine (tomatoes, Manchego, Dijon mustard, crisp-fried shallots, Campari) but each to her own.
So I felt a little insecure when, just yesterday, I saw that we were out of lup cheong
sausages. A quick trip to Chinatown was suddenly a necessity.
NOT THAT QUICK, ACTUALLY.
Because you can’t go to Chinatown without having yum cha, and without picking up some soy chicken and gnarly, caramelised char siu pork for dinner from a great BBQ roast meats joint.
In Sydney, that means Emperor’s Garden in Thomas Street, Haymarket, for barbecue meats, and the Emperor’s Garden Meat Market butcher next door, for a stack of lup cheong, hanging in garlanded pairs in the front window. ‘Chinese sun dry sausage’ says the receipt. I get three pairs for $7.84 (plus 20 cents for the plastic bag), and they’ll last months in the fridge. Feeling better now.
Note also that Wing Hong lup cheong is available from Woolworths, but having yum cha, buying BBQ roast meats and supporting local Chinese businesses is much more fun.
YES, BUT WHAT ARE LUP CHEONG?
Ruby-red, skinny, air-dried salami-like sausages of pork, pork fat, soy, salt, sugar, rice wine, spices and nitrates. Darker brown sausages are made of duck liver (yun cheong), and are equally divine.
They’ll need to be steamed for ten or fifteen minutes before you work out what to do with them. Be aware that older sausages will be drier and tougher and may need ten minutes more steaming to soften.
The sugar gives them a candied-pork quality, and means you have to watch them if you’re pan-frying, as they char easily.
Lup (lap, lop, etc) cheong sausages have been a part of southern China’s cuisine for 1500 years or so. Like all such things, they were initially made simply to preserve meat, and eventually grew to become a joy in themselves, with equivalents across China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore, Myanmar and Thailand.
Here’s the best description of lup cheong ever, from LA-based designer, photographer, mycologist and award-winning cannabis educator (yep, quite a girl) Ophelia Chong.
“It’s our version of bacon” she says. “It goes with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Actually it is breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can go through a pack a month or more, depending on your relationship status”.
WHAT TO DO WITH THEM.
# Just toss a whole sausage into the rice cooker with the rice and let it steam. When the rice is ready, pull out the sausage, finely slice, then pile on top of your bowl of rice with a spoonful of soy and chilli.
# Take Ophelia’s advice, and use it as you would bacon. How about wilted kale or silverbeet greens with scorched garlic and lup cheong? Is the world ready for a spaghetti carbonara using lup cheong sausage instead of guanciale? Or pasta all’amatriciana?
# Rice congee, topped with steamed lup cheong, mmmm; the equivalent of serving risotto with crisped bacon on top.
# Tasmanian-based chef Analiese Gregory teamed pillowy potato gnocchi with lup cheong and kombu butter at Sydney’s Bar Brose a few years ago, in an attempt to blend her Chinese heritage with the European classics she had been taught. The recipe is in her beautifully realised book How Wild Things Are: Cooking, Fishing & Hunting at The Bottom of The World.
# A sort of Asian paella with prawns and lup cheong instead of chorizo would be good. Or is that too close to fried rice?
# Fried rice. Duh.
# Finely shaved brussels sprouts or hispi (cone-shaped) cabbage, stir-fried with lup cheong and sesame oil, scattered with sesame seeds.
# Caesar salad: crisp cos leaves, creamy parmesan and tahini dressing, steamed-then-pan-fried-until-just-scorchy lup cheong.
# Silken tofu slathered with ginger and spring onion relish, served with steamed lup cheong, as shown here.
SILKEN TOFU WITH GINGER, SPRING ONION AND LUP CHEONG
Inspired by the ginger and spring onion relish that you get with white-cut chicken from your local Chinese roast meats shop, this is fresh, simple, green, and bloody tasty.
Serve with rice as a simple meal, or as part of a larger meal with that soy chicken or roast duck you picked up when you bought your lup cheong.
1 thumb ginger, peeled
4 spring onions, trimmed
half tsp sea salt
2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 lup cheong sausage
1 pack silken tofu, drained
1 tsp pickled or fresh red chilli, sliced
To make the relish, grate the ginger with a Microplane and chop the spring onions. Place in a mini food processor with sea salt and blend.
Heat the vegetable oil to smoking point, then pour over the spring onions. Add sesame oil and whiz again until almost smooth. Add cold water by the spoonful until lightly runny.
Steam the sausage in a steamer over simmering water for 10 or 15 minutes, then finely slice on the diagonal.
Gently turn out the silken tofu onto a heatproof plate, and steam for 2 minutes.
Drain well, and flip onto a serving platter. Spoon the spring onion relish on top, scatter with lup cheong and chilli, and serve.
Tip: Handle the silken tofu gently, so as not to break it. Run a knife around the edges of the pack to loosen, tip out onto a plate and drain off any water. To serve, flip it onto the serving plate, so that your presentation side is smooth.
This would be beautiful on a hot summer’s day, with just the fresh green relish on unsteamed silken tofu, taken straight from the fridge.
And furthermore: I propose fried eggs and crisped lup cheong on toasted sourdough for your consideration. Especially if you mash any left-over ginger and spring onion relish through softened butter and slather it all over the toast first.
Thanks for reading! And liking, commenting, subscribing, or sharing.
Special thanks to my right-hand man, Terry Durack, for carrying our groceries all the way home from Chinatown while my little finger (it’s a long story) continues to heal.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and waters upon which I work, live, cook and play; the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution.