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Parma Ham in China? Yes, please!

By : CGTN | Published: 2018-April-4

[Photo/CGTN]

[InKunming--Yunnan] Think about the most popular cured hams from around the world. Let me guess, it will probably be either Parma ham or jamón ibérico? While the Italians, Spanish and Portuguese may have cornered the market on cured hams in the West, in China they face stiff competition from a local producer.

Famous at home

Chances are you've never heard of Xuanwei county. However, for over 250 years, this little pocket of Yunnan province in Southwest China has been renowned for producing dry-cured ham. In fact, they even received international acclaim when they won a gold medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition for their meat product.

Xuanwei Ham is a favorite among Yunnan dishes. [Photo/CGTN]

However, the Chinese aren't as fond of eating their pork raw. Instead, thanks to its fragrant, savory meat, Xuanwei ham is often added to soups, stews and braised dishes in order to give them richer flavors.

Can China make its own Parma Ham?

That's not to say Xuanwei ham shouldn't be eaten raw. Like jamón ibérico, Xuanwei ham has to be made from a specific breed of black pig known for its high-fat content, muscle quality and thin skin. The commercially raised pigs we're used to simply will not do: Their bodies contain higher levels of moisture, which means that during the curing process, more salt needs to be added – something that could potentially ruin the meat’s flavor.

With each leg of ham weighing around 10kg, dry-curing can be tiring work. [Photo/CGTN]

Dry-curing takes place in several stages. First, salt is stir-fried in order to make it stickier and thus more easily rubbed into meat. It's then scrubbed over every inch of the ham and pressed into all its nooks and crannies. Over a period of 10 days, the ham will go through two more salt-rubbing sessions before being stacked for a week, and then finally hung up for storage.

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