One thing from my childhood is permanently burned in my memory. Every week, I’d receive a few dollars from my mom, along with an aluminum pail. She’d ask me to stop by the butcher’s shop to pick up “dried shredded pork grease.”
The hopelessly addictive aroma from the grease, blended into the rice, is something that Dajia locals will always remember, because it resembles a slice of heaven.
Wan Chuan Hsing Foods, located by the Mazu Temple, is where the people of Dajia pick up their “dried shredded pork grease.” The food company’s third generation owner, Hsu Chuan-lu, smiles and comments that “the grease turned out to be a pleasant surprise byproduct of the dried shredded pork production process. The thin layer of grease coating the pork marinade had to be removed. During that removal, some drops of marinade and pork pieces would inevitably be picked off as well, and they greatly add flavor to the grease. Only one pot of grease was produced each day, and it has always been a fond – and shared – memory of the people of Dajia.
Wan Chuan Hsing Foods was founded in 1952. The first generation owner, Hsu Ching-kui, understood the value of industriousness and perseverance. During his youth, he had worked as a fruit vendor, then opened a soap processing plant before transitioning to a career as a pork merchant. In 1952, Mr. Hsu began operations of a dried shredded pork processing plant. Dried shredded pork was considered a luxury food item in the 1950s. The processing plant began as a small business, but Mr. Hsu committed all his heart and resources into it and developed new recipes and new products. As result, business thrived and over time, it grew into the largest dried shredded pork processing plant in Taiwan.
四十年代，台灣剛光復，百業蕭條. 民生困苦. 物質缺乏，要吃到肉脯可不容易，可謂高級食品。第二代老闆許萬安先生，為人老實，到台北招攬生意，很受北部客戶的青睞，因當時對於肉類原料皆以上等溫體豬肉製成肉脯，銷路到北部，那時客戶到廠內參觀對於品質衛生，都非常讚賞嘖嘖稱奇，然後一傳十、十傳百，指定大甲萬全馨的肉類製品。
Taiwan was retroceded to the Nationalist government in the 1950s. During that time, businesses were in shambles, people were destitute, and resources were in short supply. Dried shredded pork was considered a luxury food. Second generation owner, Hsu Wan-an, had easily won over new customers with his personable and endearing honesty whenever he traveled to Taipei for business. At that time, all the meat ingredients used to make dried shredded pork sold to consumers in Taipei came from premium warm pork, and customers who had the chance to tour Wan Chuan Hsing’s processing facility l marveled at its cleanliness and innovation. Word began to spread, and more and more customers started to ask for Wan Chuan Hsing products.
At its prime, Wan Chuan Hsing worked with over 300 pork retailers in northern Taiwan alone. All these years, the company continues to work hard to live up to customer expectations and supply premium products to its client base in northern Taiwan.
Pork was in short supply as Wan Chuan Hsing’s service area and client base grew. To meet production demand for the processing plant, the partners at the company visited Taichung, Changhua, Fengyuan, Houli and Shalu in central Taiwan to source premium pork.
In the 1960s, production machinery was not invented yet and all the dried shredded pork products were handcrafted. The facility‘s staff would produce over 1,000 catties (roughly 600 grams per catty) of products a day. The need for sausage spiked during the Lunar New Year. The facility’s staff had to deliver over 2,000 catties of products daily, which made Wan Chuan Hsing the largest meat product manufacturer of Taiwan at the time.
Likewise, to meet individual demands, Wan Chuan Hsing successfully developed dozens of products, priced differently to cater to different groups. The products ranged from dried shredded pork, fried pork floss, pork jerky, dried fish, fried fish floss, sausage, marinated pork livers, cured pork, Nanking Duck, Jinhua Ham and much more.
Third generation owner Hsu Chuan-lu helped out at the facility while attending middle school. He had to stamp a seal on the orders to make them official. He reflects “In those days, products ordered by our clients in Sanchungpu, Ximenting, Dihua Street, Neijiang Street and Wuchang Street in Taipei were shipped through Zhonglian Freight Service. Guess what, those orders required no address and were successfully delivered. This just shows how well we worked with our clients; we had their addresses down pat!”
The facility was relocated from Shuntian Elementary School to its current location when second generation owner Hsu Wan-an took over. The walls hugging the alleys by the Hsu family residence were demolished to make space for Chiang Kai-shek Boulevard. The tour buses carrying pilgrims participating in the Mazu pilgrimage in Dajia were parked along the boulevard. Passengers on these buses were attracted by the aroma drifting from the facility and sauntered in for a tour. Their presence translated into profitable business opportunities. To meet growing demand, a retail store was established right there onsite.
In addition, in 1973 and 1974, pork cubes and pork carnitas were developed to increase the variety of products available. Hsu says: “In those days, the highways were not yet constructed and the tour buses from northern Taiwan made Hsinchu their first stop, where passengers stopped for a break to enjoy rice vermicelli and pork ball soup. Their second stop would be Wan Chuan Hsing Foods in Dajia, where they bought pork cubes and pork carnitas.”
In traditional family businesses, the eldest grandsons are considered the torchbearers to continue the business, and Hsu Ching-kui - the patriarch of the Hsu family – followed this practice. He asked Hsu Chuan-lu, his eldest grandson who was attending middle school at the time, to help out in the production plant, tasking him with stamping the clients’ business seals on deliveries, guiding him to get to know his customers. When Hsu Chuan-lu was accepted into Dajia Senior High School, his father Hsu Wan-an nixed the idea. He felt that it was unhealthy for boys to be confined to a regimented academic system, lest they might become over-dependent on family support. Instead, Hsu Wan-an encouraged his son to enroll in the accounting department of Overseas Chinese Vocational School. After Hsu Chuan-lu graduated, his father Hsu Wan-an sent him to Taipei to acquire more business training. As a result, Hsu Chuan-lu amassed a substantial resume working in a property insurance agency as a business representative. Four years later, Hsu Wan-an welcomed his son back to take over the family business.
Hsu Chuan-lu, upon his takeover, put his focus on the freshness of the meat products. He was indoctrinated by his grandfather Hsu Ching-kui that “one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.” With that in mind, Hsu implemented a rigorous control mechanism on the raw materials, cleanliness and product quality, and insisted on using fresh, warm pork to create the best products possible. For the manufacturing of dried shredded pork, only two pork legs out of every pig – approximately 30 catties – would be used. This is because the pork legs have more lean sinews and less fat.
The butchers would deliver the pork legs at 6 in the morning. By 7, workers at the facility would have skimmed the fat and removed the tendons. Pork delivered at 10 in the morning is unusable since the sinews are already hardened and ruptured. Also, different levels of measured dryness have to be considered according to the seasons, since no additives are put in the dried shredded pork.
To ensure the freshness of the products, the marination won’t begin for cured meat and pork livers until the northeastern monsoon begins each year, when the weather is sufficiently cool. Hsu Chuan-lu explains: “Quality and business ethics are the backbone of food businesses. The ingredients must be fresh enough in every sense. In other words, the alcohol used in the sausages must be strong and pure, the soy sauce added must be flavorful enough, and the cinnamon added in the sausage has to come from Vietnam. And no chemical ingredients are allowed in the products as substitute seasoning whatsoever. These factors are what make Wan Chuan Hsing sausages so flavorful.”
Subsequently, pork sausages produced by Wan Chuan Hsing are naturally flavorful; dried shredded pork, pork jerky, dried meat and pork cubes are also proportionally savory and sweet. Besides being a popular side dish for traditional porridge meals, these tasty meats also make excellent treats for your favorite tea and alcoholic beverages, are healthy snacks for children, and are one of the most popular gifts Dajia locals share during the Lunar New Year and other festivities.