A culinary journey fit for a king

We are 93 years old,” said Richie Brian King, operations manager and grandson of Cu Un Kay, founder of the iconic Filipino processed meat brand, King Sue (pronounced as King Suweh, not King Suh nor King Suwey). 

“We are celebrating this year not only because we are 93 years old, but also because it signifies a new chapter in our culinary journey. We honor the remarkable history and journey of King Sue ham and sausages,” shared the 39-year-old King.

Yes, the company, founded in 1930 by the young Cu Un Kay from Fukien, China, has shown resilience, dedication and unwavering commitment since it first established its factory in Caloocan City.

“We began as a humble family running a small processing plant,” he continued. My lolo started only with one simple adobe stove and peddled handcrafted hams in Quiapo and Divisoria. Over the years, we have grown into an industry leader delivering quality processed meat throughout Luzon.”

As a young man, King’s grandfather traveled to Manila, worked for his uncle in old Echague and learned how to cure meats like hams and cold cuts. He eventually put up his own processed meat business and perfected what was to become the company’s premier product offering: the Chinese Bone-in Ham. 

What started as a small enterprise was incorporated as King Sue Ham & Sausage Co., Inc. in 1970 by Cu Un Kay’s 10 children. The name King Sue came from the founder’s last name, Cu, which means King, and Sue from the Fookien term su-weh, meaning small. “My lolo was a small guy,” disclosed King.

King Sue has grown into a successful company with steady corporate clients, such as restaurant chains, hotels and resorts, caterers and food cart operators, aside from supermarkets and groceries.

“Our success is a testament to our hard work, the vision of our founders and the loyalty of our customers,” said King.

Young blood in the family

King, a graduate of economics and management from De La Salle University, grew up in the ancestral house in Caloocan City and, at an early age, was already exposed to the daily operations of the factory. 

“My lolo had 10 children and, at one time in their life, all of them lived in the ancestral house which was just beside the factory. Growing up with my cousins was really fun. Our summers would mean helping in the factory. I remember I was only six years old when I would stuff hotdogs and sausages or help in cashiering,” King recalled. 

In the ‘70s, the company started investing in equipment and machines to make big batches of processed meat and accommodate the increasing demand of its products. Most of its machines are from Germany.

“One of the things that we are most proud of is our way of processing our meat, such as the hams and sausages. The recipes are still the same for consistency. We still cook, smoke and dry in charcoal in one big room. The only difference now is the inclusion of more machines. We have to make it more cost-efficient,” said King, who used to work in different private firms before joining the family business. He also apprenticed under a German butcher.

As operations manager for King Sue, he aims to focus more on supplying restaurants, catering companies, pizza houses — potential markets for its newer products, such as bacon, salami, Hungarian sausages and pepperoni, among others. 

Despite the stiff market competition in processed meat, King remains optimistic. 

“We have always been consistent with our products, creating many happy memories among families who have truly enjoyed our products,” he claimed. “And we have 93 years of tradition, quality and heritage to back us up.”

King Sue recipes

To celebrate King Sue’s 93rd anniversary, a special live cooking demonstration of noted chef Gene Gonzalez was held at Café Ysabel in San Juan City.

Gonzalez prepared a 250-year-old heirloom recipe, called Menudo Sulipeña, using King Sue’s meat and deli products.   

“It’s an old Kapampangan recipe from my hometown in Sulipan, Pampanga,” shared Gonzalez. “It’s a cross mix of European and Filipino. The flavors are ideal for all celebrations, not just holidays. It has ham and chorizo de bilbao.”

He added: “I grew up with a lot of King Sue’s products and the Chinese ham is my personal favorite. I can use it for my fabada, callos and even nilaga.”

Aside from Menudo Sulipeña, Gonzalez also demonstrated how to prepare Vietnamese Bahn Mi and how to glaze a ham.  

Menudo Sulipeña

1 k oxtail, cleansed and softened

2 tbsp butter

3 tbsp olive oil

1 head garlic, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

Red pepper, roasted

½ paprika picante

½ c King Sue Ham, cubed

½ c sliced King Sue Chorizo Bilbao (Spanish sausage)

1 c tomato sauce

3 tbsp tomato paste

1 c cooked garbanzos (chickpeas, peeled)

2 tbsp Spanish brandy

Salt and pepper to taste

Pressure — cook oxtail for 20 to 25 minutes or simmer with enough water to cover until tender. Set the stock aside.

In a casserole, heat butter and olive oil. Saute garlic and onion, then add red and green peppers and paprika. Stir fry for two to three minutes. Add oxtail, ham, chorizo, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Add stock and simmer over low fire about 10 minutes. Add garbanzos and brandy. Season with salt and pepper.