The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) is known for its popular pork-chop box meals. However, not many people know that there were actually five different types of boxes available, made by five different catering units, using different recipes to produce the packaged meals.
Facing mounting complaints over the difference in quality of the boxed meals, the rail agency decided to settle the matter creatively — by holding its first pork- chop competition. The recipe for the pork chop that was voted No. 1 will be adopted by all of the TRA’s catering units.
The pork chops were reviewed by a six-member panel, whose expertise ranged from culinary art to restaurant management to nutrition.
The railway restaurants in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung railway stations, as well as on-board service divisions in Cidu (七堵) and in Hualien, each dispatched a chef to make the pork chops.
The pork chops made by the Cidu chief won first place after the three-hour competition. The railway restaurant in Taipei placed second, and the Taichung Railway Station third.
Chef Hsieh Ping-hung (謝秉宏), who made the Cidu pork chops, said on Thursday that winning had not been easy, because his pork chops tasted dry at first and his stove broke down during the competition.
“But I made it up with the sauce,” Hsieh said.
The TRA said it started serving pork-chop boxed meals in 1949. Organizational and personnel changes had caused different catering units to come up with different techniques and seasonings for making the pork chops. Chefs of the different units passed on their skills and recipes through an apprenticeship system, and eventually five different pork-chop recipes became standard.
The pork chops made by the Taipei Railway Station restaurant, for example, tasted a bit sweet because the meat was marinated in sauce containing onions, green onions, garlic and ginger, while the ones produced at the Taichung Railway Station tasted juicier because they were deep-fried first and then stewed in a thick sauce.