In South China, sausages and salted cured meats are flying off shelves, ready to be served at reunion dinners on the eve of Spring Festival. [Photo by Fan Zhen/China Daily]
The Chinese believe that all food on the table must have the mouth-watering combination of color, fragrance, taste and texture. Add a little patience, seasonal produce and a pinch of kitchen craft, and you may well be describing a batch of aromatic clay pot rice.
There is nothing simpler to cook on an open fire or stove-top, and the result is a heart warming and tummy warming one-dish-meal guaranteed to chase away the chills on the coldest winter nights.
And, this is the right season for a steaming hot pot of rice.
In the southern parts of China, the sausages and salted cured meats are selling, ready to be served at reunion dinners on the eve of Spring Festival.
These cured meats are marinated in sugar, salt and spices and then hung up to dry in the bitterly cold winds that blow down from the north. There are cured whole ducks, duck drumsticks, sausages made of lean and fatty mince, and liver and meat sausages, among others.
In the past, when having fat on the table was still a luxury, a favorite used to be a whole liver blanched, slit and stuffed with a piece of pork fat. Sliced and served with steamed arrowroot, this was the highlight of a rural family's New Year meal.
The years of plenty are now upon us, and sausage producers are heeding the trend and cutting down the fat. But there must be fat enough in the sausages to make them slowly render as they steam or cook - because that is what makes them so delicious.
There are various regional varieties of sausages, ranging from the sweet, wine-flavored Cantonese links to the more savory Hubei sausages to the spicy Sichuan sausages. But the general guidelines to cooking them are the same.
Most Chinese families steam them on top of the cooking rice, or slice them for stir-fries with vegetables. Sometimes they are braised with potatoes or yam.
Here is a simple recipe using the seasonal sausages, with tips.