TIANJIN, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Huang Shih-Kai, a 42-year-old Taiwan businessman, stood in his booth and kept a close eye on the black and white meatballs boiling in a hot pot, scooping out a ball by a ladle to check whether it was ready or not.
This was the tenth time for Huang to attend the Tianjin-Taiwan trade fair held from Thursday to Sunday in northern China's Tianjin Municipality. This year's event attracted over 200,000 visitors and about 600 companies from Taiwan, which brought products including food, tea, jewelry and farm produce to the fair.
"I brought over 5,000 packets of various flavored meatballs and fried rice noodles to the exhibition, and also combined them together to make a special soup for visitors," Huang said.
Due to the authentic flavors of the meatballs, Huang sold all of them with a total sales volume of 500,000 yuan (about 72,500 U.S. dollars).
"Many of the old customers told me that they came to this exhibition every year and even took their grandchildren to taste my specialty," Huang said, sharing the secret of success.
To make a chewy meatball, each process including choosing the right ingredients, and finding the exact boiling and cooling temperatures, should be accurate.
For Huang, making meatballs has been a successful business that has supported his family for over 70 years. As the third generation of the family business, Huang expanded the market beyond Taiwan to the Chinese mainland.
Dating back to 1948, Huang's grandfather ran a stall making noodles and meatballs to support his family in Hsinchu.
"At that time, the price of a meatball was equivalent to that of a bowl of noodles. Therefore, few people would choose our meatballs," Huang said.
His father took over the business in 1970 and started to use machines to mass-produce the specialty. Over the years, people's consumption levels improved and the snack gradually became popular among the local people.
Huang still decided to follow in his father's footsteps to be a meatball maker in Taiwan and beyond.
In 2008, the agreements signed by the two sides across the Taiwan Strait, including lifting bans on direct shipping, air transportation and postal services, brought big opportunities and a broader market for Huang.
In the following year, Huang took more than 400 packets of meatballs to a trade fair held in the city of Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province. "I didn't expect to sell them all in just two hours. I realized people on the Chinese mainland love this Taiwan snack."
In 2010, Huang sold more than 3,000 bowls of meatball soup on the first day of the Tianjin-Taiwan trade fair. The success has strengthened Huang's idea of developing a market on the mainland.
However, logistics and cold chain obstructed Huang's business. "The frozen meatball often melted on the way from Taiwan to Tianjin. It was hard to preserve them for a long time," Huang said.
Thanks to the Tianjin-Taiwan trade fair held in 2014, Huang cooperated with DaChan Food (Asia) Ltd., a food processing company, and set up a factory for food processing and cold chain transportation in Tianjin.
"Our family business grows better and better on the mainland now," Huang said, adding that with a monthly output of 20 tonnes, his products can be delivered to all of northern China. Besides, his Tianjin factory established cooperation with many catering companies.
As of July 2019, over 2,400 Taiwan-funded enterprises have invested in Tianjin, with a total contractual investment of about 17.6 billion U.S. dollars, according to Tianjin's Taiwan Affairs Office.
In February 2018, the mainland unveiled a spate of preferential policies for Taiwan compatriots, covering a wide range of fields including employment, education, industry, finance and taxation, land use and health care.
"My company has enjoyed these preferential policies in terms of product trade and housing rent," said Huang, who spends half a year on the mainland to promote his Taiwan meatballs.
"I'm looking forward to seeking more cooperation opportunities and helping more people taste the meatball flavor that originated from Taiwan," Huang said.