Can You Eat Chinese Sausage Raw? A Complete Guide

Chinese sausage, also known as lap cheong, is a popular ingredient in many Asian dishes. This cured and dried sausage is enjoyed in countries all over the Far East, as well as western countries with large populations of Chinese diaspora.

But can you eat Chinese sausage raw?

While some people may have eaten it uncooked without any adverse reactions, it is generally recommended to cook it before consuming. In this article, we will explore the reasons why Chinese sausage should be cooked before eating and how to properly store and prepare it for maximum flavor and safety.

So, whether you’re a fan of this savory sausage or just curious about its culinary uses, read on to learn more about Chinese sausage and how to enjoy it safely.

Can You Eat Chinese Sausage Raw?

Chinese sausage is a dried and cured sausage that is not cooked during the curing process. While some people may have eaten it raw without any issues, it is generally not recommended to consume it uncooked.

The reason for this is that Chinese sausage can contain harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. Cooking the sausage thoroughly will kill any bacteria and ensure that it is safe to eat.

Additionally, cooking Chinese sausage can enhance its flavor and texture. When cooked, the sausage becomes slightly crispy on the outside while remaining juicy and flavorful on the inside. It pairs well with a variety of dishes, including stir-fries, fried rice, and noodle dishes.

What Is Chinese Sausage?

Chinese sausage is a type of cured sausage that is popular in China, Vietnam, and Thailand. It can be made from fresh pork, pork fat, livers, and sometimes even chicken. It has a sweet and savory taste and a dense, emulsified texture. Chinese sausage is usually made by marinating, salting, and smoking the meat.

There are different types of Chinese sausage available in the market, ranging from fatty to lean sausages. Some varieties are made with pig livers, duck livers, or turkey livers. Sausages made with liver tend to be darker in color than those without liver. There are also fresh and plump sausages made with coarsely chopped pieces of pork and un-rendered pork fat.

Chinese sausage can be air-cured or smoked and dried. It is usually about 6 inches in length and is darker and thinner than Western sausages. The most common type is made with pork and pork fat, but there are also varieties made with duck liver or beef.

Chinese sausage is commonly used in stir-fries, fried rice dishes, and noodle dishes. It can also be steamed or boiled until cooked. However, it is generally not recommended to eat Chinese sausage raw due to the risk of harmful bacteria. Cooking the sausage thoroughly will ensure that it is safe to eat while also enhancing its flavor and texture.

The Risks Of Eating Chinese Sausage Raw

Eating Chinese sausage raw can pose several risks to your health. Raw sausage can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli), Listeria, and Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause serious infections and illnesses if consumed. Symptoms of foodborne illness from raw sausage can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and headache.

Chinese sausage is also high in sodium, soy sauce, and nitrates. Consuming it raw can lead to an excessive intake of these substances, which can cause health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

Furthermore, Chinese sausage often contains MSG, which can potentially lead to headaches and other symptoms in some people. MSG is a flavor enhancer that is commonly used in processed foods. While it is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, some people may be sensitive to it and experience adverse effects.

How To Properly Cook Chinese Sausage

There are several ways to cook Chinese sausage, and each method can result in a delicious and flavorful dish. Here are some popular methods for cooking Chinese sausage:

1. Steaming: The most common way to cook Chinese sausage is to steam it. You can either steam it along with rice in a rice cooker or steam it on its own. When steaming the sausage with rice, the rice absorbs all the flavors and fat from the sausage, making it incredibly tasty. If you want to steam the sausage on its own, place the links on a heatproof plate and steam, covered, over boiling water, or in a rice cooker for 20 to 30 minutes or until the sausages are translucent.

2. Boiling: Another way to cook Chinese sausage is to boil it in water. Place the sausages in a pot with enough water to cover them and bring the water to a boil. Continue cooking for around 10 to 20 minutes or until you can easily insert a chopstick. Boiling the sausage helps to release some of the fat and makes it more tender and flavorful.

3. Stir-frying: You can also stir-fry Chinese sausage with vegetables or rice for a quick and easy meal. Start by slicing the sausage thinly and cooking it in a wok over medium-low heat to render as much fat as possible. Remove the sausage from the wok and set it aside. Add minced garlic and stir around to brown over low heat. Add rice and the rest of the ingredients to wok and stir around until the grains are evenly mixed and heated. Add sausage slices back to wok and stir to mix. Serve immediately, garnishing with green onion or cilantro.

4. Mixing with rice: Chinese sausage can also be mixed with rice for a simple yet delicious meal. Measure your desired amount of rice and pour into a medium pot, taking note of the measurement. Cover the rice with 2 inches of water, and soak for 20 minutes. Once the rice has soaked, drain off the water it was soaking in. You should now just have a pot of soaked rice. Measure out fresh water in the same volume as the rice, and pour it into the pot. Add the Chinese sausages on top. Put the pot over the stove on medium high heat. Once the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid has cooked off and the rice is fluffy.

Storing Chinese Sausage For Maximum Freshness

To ensure that your Chinese sausage stays fresh and safe to eat, it is important to store it properly. If you have purchased dried Chinese sausage in a vacuum-sealed pack, check the expiration date before opening it. Once opened, wrap the remaining sausages tightly in cling film and keep them in the freezer. If you have a vacuum sealer, reseal the remaining sausages to extend their shelf life.

If you have purchased lap cheong or yun cheong, which are shelf-stable and sold vacuum-packed on store shelves, it is best to keep them in the refrigerator once the packaging is opened. Lap cheong has a relatively long shelf life of weeks in the refrigerator and months in the freezer but should be cooked before the expiry date on the label and before it shows any sign of mold.

Fresh Chinese sausages should be treated as perishable food items and stored in the fridge. If left out unrefrigerated for more than two hours, they should be discarded. It is recommended to only buy as much raw sausage as you can reasonably eat in a couple of days. The USDA FSIS guidelines state that a pack of fresh sausages will last only between one and two days in your fridge, whether the package is opened or not. To extend their shelf life to three to four days, cook them before storing them in your fridge.

To store cooked Chinese sausage safely, transfer it into an airtight container or bag and keep it at 40°F or below. Label the package with the date you stored it so you know how long it has been sitting in your fridge. Cooked sausages that are stored in the freezer will keep for up to two to three months.

By following these storage guidelines, you can ensure that your Chinese sausage stays fresh and safe to eat for as long as possible.

Delicious Ways To Enjoy Chinese Sausage In Your Cooking

Chinese sausage has a unique flavor that is both sweet and savory, making it a versatile ingredient in many dishes. Here are some delicious ways to enjoy Chinese sausage in your cooking:

1. Fried Rice: Chinese sausage is an ideal ingredient for fried rice. Its high-fat content renders a lot of lard, which is absorbed by the rice, making it rich and flavorful. The only trick to using fresh lap cheong is to carefully monitor the browning process, as the sugar content in the meat makes the slices of sausage easy to scorch. Otherwise, keep your fried rice simple and let the sausage shine.

2. Stir-Fries: Slices of Chinese sausage are good in any stir-fry, but it’s best to use fresh lap cheong for this method. Because of its higher-than-average fat and sugar content, this kind of Chinese sausage browns quickly and renders a lot of lard, making it an ideal component in stir-fries.

3. Noodle Dishes: Chinese sausage pairs well with noodles, especially when used in a stir-fry or soup. The sausage adds a rich taste to each bite and makes the dish more filling.

4. Turnip Cake: Chinese sausage shows up in turnip cake, a popular dim sum dish. The diced and rendered links add a sweet and savory flavor to the dish.

5. Deep-Fried Snacks: If you frequent the dim sum carts, you’ll notice Chinese sausage in a variety of other snacks like deep-fried taro root concoctions. The emulsified texture of the sausage makes even the fresher links taste like meat candy.