Monday, 31 January 2011

Happy Wabbit Year

Chinese New Year 2011, 3rd  - 17th Feb

Happy New Year to all who celebrate the year of the Rabbit.

在新的兔年祝你和你的家人:  In the year of the Rabbit, wish you and your family:

萬事如意  All wishes come true
好運連連  No end of good lucks
青春健康  Feeling young and healthy
甜甜蜜蜜  Love is sweet
幸福快樂  Blissful and happy

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Sausage making - cheap useful tools and tips

For a change this is not a recipe. I just like to brag about the cheap and cheerful sausage making tools I have been using recently.

Last year I started making Chinese sausages lap cheong and other homemade fresh sausages. Unwilling to pay £££ for a stuffer machine I had been using a standard plastic funnel and a stick as a plunger to stuff the sausages. It was hard work!

I searched on the internet for an alternative cheap method and found there are stuffer funnels that will fit my manual cast iron meat grinder. It wasn't expensive (about £5 - 6 for a set) so I bought one with 3 different size funnel tubes. I got mine from Ebay but if anyone is interested here is a useful link.  Before buying a set make sure you know the size no. of the meat grinder, mine is a #10

Set of sausage stuffing funnel tubes
This old fashioned meat grinder I bought years ago has been gathering dust in the cupboard because I did not find it useful grinding meat.

To fit the sausage funnel tube just remove the grinder blade and replace front disc with the plastic stuffer tube. The plastic fits perfectly to the front but the spiral rod inside was quite loose because I have taken out the blade, I was unsure if it would work.
Sausage funnel fitted to meat grinder
Slip sausage casing onto stuffer tube
Making some lap cheong
The minute I started cranking the meat grinder handle, I was so please the meat came out smoothly. The stuffing job was so much easier and took fraction of the time than using a funnel and a stick. Another thing I found was this method trapped a lot less gas than the simple funnel and stick. The only slight drawback was I needed 3 hands :) : one for cranking the handle, one for holding the sausage casing to the tube to ensure even flow of meat into the casing and one to spoon meat into the feeder and push it down with a spoon. Wish I have a helper.

I do recommend this funnel stuffer with meat grinder method if like me you don't want to spend too much and not making industrial amount of sausages frequently. The meat grinder is cheap, you can get one under £20 or second hand from Ebay or maybe one of your older relative have one tucked away in the their cupboard they are willing to give away. Now I've found a good use for my manual meat grinder it has finally come out of the cupboard and get used frequently.

Aren't these short fat lap cheong cute? There are stuffed with hog skin about 35mm.
Fat short lap cheong
And here is a mobile and dirt cheap way to hang the sausages using trousers hanger!
hang in pairs ready for drying
Aside from tools, here are a few tips making sausages from my own experience if you are interested.
  • If using cellulose (artificial) skin, uncoil the skin and cut into workable length about 30 - 40 cm. Stretch it and slip the dried casing directly onto the sausage stuffing tube. If the skin is wet/damp it can be a bit difficult to work. Once the skin is fitted onto the plastic tube, dampen it with water this will prevent skin breakage. 
  • Avoid trapping air into the sausages much as you can.  
  • If making lap cheong (both cellulose or natural skin) prick the sausage with a fine needle all over before they are ready for hanging and lightly squeeze each sausage to release any trapped air. 
  • If making fresh sausages do not prick too many holes or the sausage may split or burst during cooking. 
  • To make standard size lap cheong (if using natural skin) use thin sausage skin like sheep casing size 21 -  26mm or cellulose casings. Hog casing is far too thick unless you want to make fat short ones like the picture above. 
  • When tying sausages with a cotton string better use a double loops knot (just like a normal knot but looping the string twice before pulling to tie the knot). 
  • When soaking salted natural skin, do not exceed too much what you will need. If you do have too much left over, make sure they are clean and remove any excess water then mix with plenty of salt and put back in the fridge. This will keep for sometime but try using it again soon as poss. Another handy tip is to get some cellulose skin as backup, if you do run out of skin this way you can continue working and finish the job quickly. 
  • Cellulose skin keeps for many years in the cupboard, dried and handy to use straight away. When making fresh sausages with cellulose skin, make sure you keep the sausages in the fridge for few hours or overnight before cooking, this will reduce skin breakage during cooking. 
  • Do not freeze natural casings this will cause the skin to weaken and break. 
  • If using a manual cast iron meat grinder, after cleaning put all the parts in a warm oven to dry. This will prevent rust. 

UK sausage casings suppliers:

Friday, 28 January 2011

Chinese pork jerky/ Sweet bbq pork/ Rou gan / Bak kwa/ 肉乾

Hello and belated New Year greeting!. Apology for neglecting the blog again for many weeks, I had disappeared to California enjoying the sun and hopefully has escaped the worst of English winter.

Chinese New Year is coming soon. This year is the year of the rabbit and 1st day of CNY is next Thursday 3rd Feb.

One of my CNY favourite snack is sweet bbq pork from Singapore (and West Malaysia too). Anyone who lives or had visited Singapore will be familiar with the bbq smell on the street or shopping centres when the bbq meat store's vendor grilling this yummy red thin pork slices right outside the store attracting customers.

With the strict custom restriction banning meat imports, it is quite difficult nowadays to bring this goody from the Far East.

I have a friend in Canada who can make this sweet bbq pork just like the real thing from Singapore but he is reluctant to share the recipe. I have been searching for a decent recipe for a while and non has caught my eyes. Most of the recipes I've found dries the pork at a fairly high temperature between 100 - 125 deg C. This will cook the meat right away rather then drying. Some have use red colour to make the meat looks red and I am one trying to steer away from artificial colour much as I can.

Having made bacon and lap cheong previously have given me the idea to use curing salt to cure the meat and giving it a deep red colour.

Without a T&T recipe, I used my lap cheong recipe and modified it to concoct this sweet bbq pork recipe.

I used standard ground pork from the supermarket and #1 pink cure salt because the meat does not need to cure longer than 24 hrs. It's a cheap and cheerful experiment well worth trying.

This recipe will make about 600g dried pork

1 kg minced (ground) pork
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup light soy sauce
3 tbsp Chinese wine like Mei kui lu or Shaoshing
1 tsp of five spice
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 medium heat large chilli, finely ground with pestle and mortar to about 1 tbsp, or you can use 1 - 2 tsp chilli powder (chilli is optional if you like spicy flavour)
2.5g (about 1/2 loosely packed level tsp) #1curing salt (#1 Prague powder/ DQ curing salt/ pink cure salt), concentration is 6.25% nitrite, if using different concentration salt adjust accordingly.

some cooking oil
parchment paper or greaseproof paper


  1. Mix and stir all the marinating ingredients together.
  2. Mix thoroughly with the meat. Best use hands and wear disposable gloves if you don't like to touch raw meat.
  3. Cover and keep meat in the fridge overnight.
  4. Cut several pieces of parchment paper/ greased proof paper about the same size of your oven rack.
  5. Place one piece of paper on the working area. Brush lightly with cooking oil.
  6. Divide the meat into 2 - 3 portions.
  7. Put one portion of meat on the oil greased paper. Spread the meat with a wooden or stiff plastic spatula, to about 1/2 thick.
  8. Oil grease another piece of paper same size. Place this (grease side down) on top the meat.
  9. Press the meat with hands and/ or with a rolling pin, spread the meat evenly and thinly to about 2 - 2.5 mm thick. Tidy the edges much as you can. Peel of the top sheet of paper. Once done put this aside.
  10. Repeat step 7 - 9 till you have 2 - 3 very thin sheet of meat on paper. I have divided the meat into two portions, size of each sheet of meat was about 40 x 25 cm.
  11. Put the sheets on oven racks.
  12. Turn the oven on to about 60 - 65 deg C. Dry for about 1 hour - 1hour15min by which time the meat would have set, shrunk 1 - 2 cm on each side, getting slightly thicker, feels quite greasy on the surface and the meat feels like a soft piece of rubber. During drying time, open oven door every 15 - 20 min during drying time to release steam.
  13. Take the meat out. Flip the meat directly onto the rack and remove the paper.
  14. Return to the oven and continue drying for another hour or a bit more, by which time the meat should be quite rubbery. Also open oven door every 15 - 20 min to release steam.
  15. Let the meat cool down. Then cut into pieces. They are now ready to cook - grilled/charbroil, chargrill or bbq. If you don't want to cook it right away you can store them in the fridge after drying, keeps for a week or keep in freezer till you are ready to cook and eat.
  16. To grill or charbroil meat, turn the grill (charbroiler) on high.
  17. Take a baking tray (baking sheet), put a rack on top then put the meat pieces on the rack.
  18. Grill (charbroil) for about 60 - 90 sec on each side till you see lots of fat bubbling on the meat surface and slightly charred. Turn over and grill (charbroil) the other side.
  19. Take them out and cool on kitchen towel to absorb some of the grease. There will be quite a bit of fat collected on the baking tray. Amount of fat depends on fat content of the meat.
  20. Once cool enough to touch it's ready to eat or store in container. Will keep for about a week in the fridge. Can refresh by microwave for few seconds. 
* greasing the paper helps the meat not sticking to paper. Though parchment paper is non stick but raw meat will stick to parchment paper.

The result was pretty good. The meat is quite red like it should be. Flavour and texture quite nice, the only downside is the lack of smoky flavour. I will definitely try again and cook them on charcoal bbq when the weather gets warmer.

Other than eating this bbq meat on its own as a snack, it is great sandwiched with soft bread.

If anyone wants to buy some curing salt I have plenty, you can contact me by email.