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"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Jinhua Ham Museum, China.

Jinhua Ham Museum Zhejiang province China

Jinhua Ham Museum.

August 2018. Ok kids, it’s quiz time! And in the interests of cutting straight to the chase, I’ll hit you with this article’s all-important question.

From where did dry-cured ham originate? 

It’s Spain right? Everyone knows about Spanish jamón. Not least myself, as I was lucky enough to live in the Spanish city of Malaga for a year. But if you think dry-cured ham is a Spanish invention, you’d be way off the mark. It actually began in the Chinese city of Jinhua as far back as the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD). Keen to find out more, I headed off to Jinhua’s quirky Ham Museum.

Jinhua Ham Museum China.

Jinhua Ham Museum.

Jinhua Ham Museum sits on the ground floor of Jinzi Ham Company headquarters. There are guided tours available but only in Chinese. In fact, as soon as I entered the place there was an audible “oooh” from the girl behind reception. From there, she happily waved me towards the exhibition. You’re on your own, buddy. 

Visit Jinhua Ham Museum.

Jinhua Ham Museum.

The exhibition here gives a brief history of dry cured ham around the world before swiftly getting down to the business of Jinhua ham. The first thing I learned is that it’s a bit of a nightmare to make! There are over 30 careful procedures including salting, washing, drying and fermenting.

My favourite though has to be the “expert smelling”. Apparently, the worker in question inserts a bamboo stick into the meat before taking an all-important sniff. It takes anywhere between 6-8 months to produce a distinct, aromatic slab of Jinhua ham. Hardcore.

Jinhua Ham Museum Zhejiang province China

Jinhua Ham Museum.

Visit Jinhua.

Jinhua ham is much saltier and smokier than Spanish ham. Curiously, the Chinese rarely eat the ham itself. Rather, they use it chiefly as a flavouring for stewed and braised dishes. Moreover, you can find it in the stocks and broths of many Chinese soups.

Jinhua Ham Museum Zhejiang province China

A box of high end Jinhua Ham.

The museum has a large gift store with a wide array of ham-based products. Expect to pay a pretty penny for a leg of Jinhua cured ham. Chinese businessmen keen to impress foreign visitors or important clients might offer a leg of Jinhua Ham as a gift.

This handsome chunk, beautifully displayed in a fancy box, could have been mine for 1288RMB (£146/€162/$187). I thought about it… for about one second.

Jinhua Ham Museum Zhejiang province China

Jinhua Ham Museum.

Happily, there was a cheap and cheerful option in the form of… Jinhua Ham Jerky! These bite-sized packs are great for getting a little taste and come in a variety of flavours. There are also beef alternatives. I thought the Jinhua Jerky was really tasty, hence I grabbed a couple of packs for the road.

Jinhua Ham Museum.

Jinhua Jerky.

Jerky!

Jinhua Ham Museum is an understated attraction and it won’t take you more than twenty minutes to work your way through the exhibits. I read that the factory floors are now sadly closed to the public. That would certainly have added something to the experience. For those with just a casual interest in dry cured ham, the museum might be a disappointment. Especially as its a bit out of the way from the city centre.

That said, I thought it was a cool, unique sight and a refreshing change from the usual attractions of a third tier Chinese city. Furthermore, entrance is free and it’s open daily from 10:00-18:00. Thus all you have to do is jump in a taxi from the centre, it’ll take about twenty minutes.

Taxi driver Jinhua Zhejiang Province China.

“Jinhua Ham Museum, please!”

For a deeper look into Jinhua’s ham production, have a read of this interesting article from Vice.

For more on my adventures in this largely unknown city, check out more reports from Jinhua.

To explore the region, here are my travel reports from across Zhejiang Province. 

Interested in reading more about China? Why not click through my stacks of articles from all around the country.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.

8 Comments

  • cbholganza

    wow! loved that tour! and i always thought the spanish hamon had to be original ham of all!

    June 4, 2020 - 2:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yeah, I think this is a piece of trivia that would surprise most people. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      June 4, 2020 - 2:58 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Two questions: Do they ship ham to the US without tariffs? What does it take to become a ham smeller?

    June 5, 2020 - 1:23 am Reply
    • Leighton

      1: They don’t ship without massive tariffs. Especially on those swanky boxes. 2: I’ve had a word with them, you start on Monday.

      June 5, 2020 - 9:16 am Reply
  • shoestringdiary

    We actually have both Spanish and Chinese hams here in the Philippines and both arrived in the 1500’s. Nowadays you won’t easily spot the difference as the influences have fused over the years. But we do remember back in our younger days that cured ham legs that came as Christmas gifts seem to always have Chinese inscriptions on them.

    June 5, 2020 - 10:58 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey guys, that’s very cool, thanks for reading. Is cured ham a popular food in The Philippines? Do you make your own?

      June 5, 2020 - 11:06 am Reply
      • shoestringdiary

        Yes it is, particularly during Christmas. We often eat it with local bread. Hard to make that on our own because of the lengthy process required but we can always buy from supermarkets, or better yet from Manila’s Chinatown shops.

        June 5, 2020 - 11:10 am
      • Leighton

        That’s amazing, I had no idea. Really hope to spend some time travelling The Philippines. One of these years….

        June 5, 2020 - 11:25 am

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