Generally sold in strings of two, each sausage measuring about 6 inches in length, ¾ inch across, and weighing 1½ ounces, these sausages lend a unique color, sweetness, and richness to a dish. Unlike our Western sausages, they are hard to the feel and very bumpy in profile, because they are dried as a preservative and are made with pieces of firm pork fat. The most common variety is pork sausage, which is sweet and rosy. However, there is also a popular sausage made from duck liver, which is dark and rich. You will also occasionally see beef sausage and extra-lean pork sausage. The standard pork variety is my favorite, both for the way it complements the vegetable and rice dishes in which I most frequently use it and for its own good taste.
I am extremely picky about Chinese sausages, finding many of them tasting painfully of chemicals. There are two factories, one on the East Coast and one on the West, which make excellent sausage and will mail order. Short of mail order, trust your own tongue to find a brand with a clean, sweet, full-bodied taste.
Chinese sausages keep for weeks in the refrigerator and months in the freezer, wrapped airtight. Cut into thin diagonal coins and steam until the fat turns translucent and soft before using. If the fat is objectionable, blanch the coins to soften them prior to stir-frying.