Friday, 13 February 2009

Sausages!

This was written a couple of months ago; it's now spring and most of the sausages have disappeared, but you still see some, so I reckon this post is permissible.

Autumn in Chengdu is sausage season. Long strings of them can be seen hanging from almost every available pole, outside windows...



above shops....



and against walls.



There they are left for several weeks to wind-dry until chewy and aromatic, and then served as ‘horse-ears’ (slices cut at a sharp angle to resemble a horse's ear), either cold or quickly stir-fried. Some weeks ago, perhaps provoked by all this sausage madness, I had a sudden craving for a British-style sausage sandwich – thick, grilled pork sausages, slick with tomato ketchup, and enveloped by soft white bread. I don’t often crave meat, but the intensity of this craving took me rather by surprise, and so I decided to break our normally vegetarian kitchen’s meat-cooking virginity and satisfy my desire.

First, I bought a couple of ‘bai-wei’ (white flavour, ie. plain) flat bread rolls from our local bakery, and then proceeded to the butcher to purchase the sausages. I had anticipated a little trouble here, what with wanting to buy so few, but rather than object to the number of sausages I wanted, the butcher at first simply refused to sell me any. ‘They’re not ready yet’, he said, ‘come back in a week or two.’ Pleadingly, I explained that in England we don’t dry our sausages, and that I didn’t mind if they were ‘bu hao chi’ (not delicious) now. Perhaps just to get rid of me, he eventually gave in, and after a few minutes of gentle frying in the wok, I finally realised my sausage sandwich dream. Though the meat had a (very pleasing) hint of Sichuan pepper, essentially it was exactly what I wanted – a proper British sausage sarnie. If I closed my eyes, I could have been back in in my mum's kitchen in Hebden Bridge.


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