Expanding in range of products and quality, Taiwan’s foreign meat-product manufacturers cater to comfort-food cravings while broadening local palates.
If there’s one Taiwanese snack that loses its appeal quickly, it’s the sausage. While many long-term foreign residents initially develop an affinity for the juicy, chewy – or often gristly – texture and the sweet, rice wine-infused taste, the lack of variety takes its toll on their enthusiasm over time.
Condiments, spices, and toppings differ slightly from stall to stall. The smaller, more traditional operators offer raw garlic as an accompaniment, and there’s the “small sausage inside big (rice) sausage” option. Maverick vendors occasionally experiment with daring tweaks to the standard formula – adding cracked black pepper, for example. Some cured meat products use pig or duck liver, reminiscent of Hong Kong-style lap cheong (臘腸).
Regardless of any alterations, the sausages offered in Taiwan have traditionally been limited to one type, which has often left individuals from countries accustomed to a wide variety of pork products disappointed.
Little wonder, then, that foreign entrepreneurs have spotted this gap in the market and filled it with generous portions of well-seasoned gourmet sausage links. In fact, over the past two decades sausage vendors have sprung up all over the place. What follows is not an exhaustive list but a sampling of top-notch, Western-style meat treats around Taiwan.
Mr. Sausage’s Kitchen
For around 15 years, Aussie-born Mark Goding, together with his wife Elsa, served up sausages with sauerkraut sides at his restaurant and bar near Taipei Arena. During that time, Goding could also be seen pedaling around town on his bicycle, delivering orders to customers.
Eventually, the hospitality side of things took a toll. “You have to be a bit of a masochist to deal with people in a restaurant setting,” says Goding. Jokingly referring to customers as “the worst mirror images of yourself when met face to face,” he explains that he and his wife decided to shift their focus.
Mr. Sausage continues to provide sausage for hotels and restaurants, but the couple is now “a bit pickier” about their customers. “Many of the places are artisanal, and we also have a list of old friends we’ll always continue to supply,” he says.
Goding and his wife switched to a machine-based process, utilizing imported Spanish equipment for several years after an initial period of hand-making their sausages. However, as they wound down the restaurant and moved into a smaller space, they reverted to traditional methods. “Now, it’s just me, a grinder, a table, and a very large freezer,” he says.
Reflecting on the past, Goding cites a bid to court favor with a group of ravenous South Africans as a key motivation for his sausage venture. “The impetus was joining a rugby team as a 35-year-old Australian who’d never played before,” he says. “I started making the sausages so they’d pass me the ball!”
Goding has gone on to sponsor a touch-rugby team whose uniforms are emblazoned with the business’ name. Never one to eschew a saucy, sausage-based joke, Goding had the slogan “Ask me about my sausage” added to the back of each jersey under the names and numbers of the players. “When we played at Taipei American School, they requested that we tuck that part into our shorts so no one could see it,” he says.
As for whether Western-style sausages have gained favor among Taiwanese gourmands, Goding is ambivalent. “Back when we started, there was a small but adventurous group willing to try new things,” he says. “Now, you’re usually dealing with people who just want their photos taken with the products.”
Some things have not changed since Goding started his business – bicycle delivery is still available for those within a close enough range. “It’s a fitness dividend,” he says.
As one of the few companies selling European-style sausages in volume through major commercial channels, Churchill’s has been a trailblazer. Cofounder and CEO Dom Grant says his own sausage epiphany came while walking his dog – presumably not a coded reference to the processed wieners “marketed as German sausage by Taiwanese companies” with which he unflatteringly contrasts Churchill’s range.
“I think the market increasingly recognizes our products for their authenticity as more customers appreciate the difference,” says Grant. “Of course, our products appeal to foreigners, but the majority of our customers are Taiwanese, especially those that have traveled internationally, studied or lived overseas, or are simply foodies.”
Having discussed a mutual craving for good British bangers with fellow Englishman Lee Thomas on said canine-accompanied walk, Grant decided to see what he could rustle up at home. When he next met Thomas for a pint, Grant brought along his homemade products and was surprised to find that Thomas had independently done the same. “Neither of us had told the other,” says Grant. “We had a right laugh, plus some delicious sausages. It went from there.”
In those early days, the pair made everything in Thomas’ kitchen before “mooching around Western bars and flogging them on a Friday night.” With his background in finance and tech, Grant realized the commercial potential and decided to outsource to an OEM manufacturer to meet growing demand from the multiple sales channels he had established.
“That gave us quality control and volume, plus the necessary industry and legal standards, like HACCP [Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points],” says Grant. “It wasn’t easy, and we took risks on manufacturing volume. Also, initially it was time-consuming to ensure the factory could replicate the taste and texture.”
In 2015, Churchill’s launched its brand in Jason’s (now Mia C’bon) and City Super – supermarket chains known for their Western imports. Three years later, Carrefour Taiwan approached Grant with a proposal to set up a Churchill’s showcase counter at its store in Taipei’s Tianmu area. Grant and Thomas did not need convincing. Since then, the brand has introduced its iconic British red telephone-box freezers at branches island-wide. Customers can now find sausage rolls, pies, chicken Kiev, microwaveable meals, and six sausage varieties, among other items.
Taichung has its fair share of businesses offering quality sausage and cured meats, but Sausage Shack is a cut above. Given Founder Adrian Buirski’s background, that’s unsurprising.
At just 11 years old, Buirski was a trainee butcher in his native Cape Town, South Africa. “The brothers that owned the butchery taught me all the skills I needed to become a blockman (a person tasked with cutting, dressing, and preparing meat) by the age of 16,” he says. A few years after arriving in Taiwan in 2001, Buirski began putting those abilities to good use to satisfy the demand among his fellow nationals for good farm-style boerewors (South African sausages).
Since that period, the demographic has shifted somewhat. “Taiwanese are definitely open to appreciating Western-style sausages,” he says. “I know this from getting out to events and feeding people my sausages the way we do back home.”
While Buirski recently sold production and retail operations to Monster Foods, a Changhua-based food manufacturer with whom he maintains a close working relationship, he continues to front in-person events around Taiwan.
The Sausage Shack selection includes bacon, lamb, and chakalaka – a spicy South African relish. But the tried-and-trusted classics remain top sellers. “Our most popular has to be the beef boerewors, followed by the Pork Banger,” says Buirski.
Kaohsiung-based Canadian Cory Toner gained hands-on sausage-making experience at a young age, developing a personal connection to the meat he ate. “My family and I made venison sausages during hunting season,” he recalls of his childhood in Saskatchewan.
Like most businesses on this list, Cory’s Kitchen began as a hobby among friends. “While making sausages for our own consumption, we joked about turning this into a business to satisfy those with the same desire as us for true home flavor,” says Toner. As word spread, the joke soon became serious.
As with all food enterprises, meeting health and safety requirements was a priority. Among the first steps was to send out samples to Swiss-headquartered health and safety inspection firm SGS. “We also took HACCP courses and passed the examination to ensure we were up to date with government regulations and all that jazz,” says Toner.
Since its establishment in 2011, the company has expanded from a storefront in Kaohsiung’s Zuoying District to an online shop and products on the shelves of supermarkets, including The Beautiful Market, an in-house store at Shinkong Mitsukoshi Xinyi Place A4 in Taipei. Numerous bars, restaurants, and hotels across Taiwan also swear by Cory’s products.
The Braai Guy
Few nationalities put on a meat feast comparable to the Saffa braai – a word that translates as “barbecue” but connotes so much more to South Africans. “It’s part of our culture and something we do every week,” says Derik Du Plessis, also known as The Braai Guy. “When people leave South Africa, the thing they miss most is a proper braai and a boerewors to go on the grill.”
From his base in Hualien, Du Plessis helps satisfy that appetite, producing an array of delicious meat products, including some of the best biltong (dried, cured meat) you’ll find in Taiwan. Among his sausage varieties, Du Plessis highlights his Moroccan lamb and cheese grillers as a hit with local customers. However, he notes that old habits die hard when adjusting palates.
“Taiwanese have a very different taste for sausage,” he says. “They grew up eating sweet sausage, and many prefer what they are used to.”
While he used to regularly take his braai to pop-up events all over Taiwan, Du Plessis has scaled back in recent years. “It’s not easy to get everywhere from Hualien,” he says. “Nowadays, I just do two – the ‘Saffafest’ in Hsinchu and Kaohsiung.” Held in March and November, respectively, these celebrations of South African food and culture allow Du Plessis to bring his compatriots a much-missed taste of home. “My focus is still South Africans,” he says. “So, most of my products have that South African flavor.”
Little Europe is a more recent addition to the sausage roster. Cofounder Eckart Schenk was educated as a civil engineer and subsequently worked as a freelance consultant and coordinator on energy and infrastructure projects in Germany and Taiwan. However, a growing sideline in e-commerce saw him exploring new avenues.
“We started selling German sausages at the German Christmas Market [at Taipei Expo Park] in 2021, which was supposed to be a one-time thing,” says Schenk. “But the success was so overwhelming that we started an online shop.”
Partnering with an established German butcher in southern Taiwan, Little Europe provides a range of bratwursts, freshly fermented sauerkraut, and German pork knuckle. Unlike some purveyors of Western-style goods, Little Europe relies heavily on Taiwanese consumers.
“There are some foreigners, but the majority of our customers are Taiwanese,” says Schenk. “Many order after trying them at one of the events.” This generated interest has led to a lot of word-of-mouth recommendations, which Schenk hopes will translate into further expansion. “We’re still a small player,” he says. “But we do our best.”