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Lop chong is a type of Chinese sausage which is also known as lap chong, lap cheong, lap cheung, and lap xuong, among many other spelling variants. Traditionally, this sausage is made during the 12th lunar month, and it may be cured in a number of ways. Unlike some other cured meats, lap chong must be cooked before it can be used. This sausage is very popular in China and areas with a large Chinese population, and it tends to be relatively easy to obtain in these regions.
There are two basic types of lop chong. One is made with pork, and one is made with a mixture of duck and pork liver. Some regional variants may be made with other meats. The meats are spiced before being packed into intestinal casings and cured. Traditionally, lap chong has been wind dried; many Chinese say that this brings out the savory flavor in this sausage. Lop chong can also be baked or smoked.
The finished product is a hard, very dry sausage with a spicy, yet sweet taste. When the sausage has been well handled, it can keep for up to a month at room temperature unless it is opened, and it keeps even longer under refrigeration. Lop chong was probably originally devised to help people get through the the winter, so it was cured for durability; the curing process simply happens to enhance the natural flavor of the sausage.
There are numerous ways to prepare lop chong. One of the most basic and beloved techniques is simply to steam the sausage and serve it over rice. It can also be stir fried with mixed vegetables and other ingredients, or chopped up and added to dumplings, spring rolls, and an assortment of other dishes. Some people also enjoy eating lop chong as a snack food; the spicy sweetness is quite enjoyable on its own.
In a region with a big Chinese population, a Chinese grocer or butcher may stock lop chong. Some of the most prized versions are made in Hong Kong or Macau style, and sausage from these regions may be available at import stores. If you have trouble tracking down these sausages in your region, you may be able to find a supplier who will be able to ship it to you. Be aware that agricultural inspection in China can be hit or miss, and there have been some cases of food borne illness linked to the consumption of lop chong, especially sausages prepared with dyes to make them more visually appealing. If you can, purchase undyed sausage, store it in cool conditions, and cook it before consumption.