Yummy Vegan House – ★★★ (Beitou, Taipei)

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★ – Good
  • Location: Between Qiyan Station & Beitou Station, Taipei, Taiwan (Map Below)
  • Type: All Vegan; Taiwanese & Thai
  • Price: $$ – Average (for Taiwan, $100 TWD/$350 USD for a main dish)
  • Hours: Mon-Sun, 11:30am-8pm
  • Website: Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
  • Menu: Click Here
  • Language Barrier:  English Menu available
  • Phone Number:  02-28947570

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About & Location:

Yummy Vegan House is an all-vegan restaurant located in the Beitou district of Taiwan.  Offers a small variety of Taiwanese,Chinese, and Thai main vegan dishes. Also serves small dishes, a few desserts, and drinks/smoothies. It’s located just about halfway between Beitou Station and Qiyan Station, although it’s slight closer to Qiyan Station. Both stations can be reached on the Red Line (Tamsui Line).  If you’re coming from central Taipei, get on the train heading towards “Beitou.”  There is only one exit from Qiyan station, on the north end, and to get to Yummy Vegan House you should take this exit and then keep walking north (towards Beitou Station).

Address:

  • Chinese: 台北市北投區中央南路一段218號
  • English:  218, Sec. 1, Zhongyang South Road, Beitou District, Taipei, Taiwan

 

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Restaurant Review:

Yummy Vegan House is a small cafe that serves mainly Taiwanese/Chinese dishes, including Fried Rice, Chinese Cheese Ramen, and dumplings.  They do have some international offerings as well, such as brownies, smoothies, and a few Thai dishes.  While the menu isn’t necessarily expansive, it has a good variety of soups, rice dishes, noodle dishes, and stir-fries, so there should be something to suit most tastes (so long as you like Taiwanese/Chinese food).  The serving sizes are ample, but if you’re still hungry there’s also a lot of small side-dishes you can order.

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I ended up ordering the Spices Fried Rice ($120 TWD), Handmade Peanuts Tofu side-dish ($45 TWD), and the Sweetened White Gourd Drink with Soymilk ($50 TWD).  The Spices Fried Rice was exceptional, and tasted very different from the fried rice I used to eat at Chinese restaurants in the US.  I think the difference might be a more liberal use of spice (presumably Chinese 5-spice) in this recipe – the cinnamon and cloves especially were really noticeable, but not in an overpowering way.  It was perfect, not too oily or too spiced (at least for me).  It included a nice assortment of fried veggies, including cabbage, okra, raisins, and mushrooms.  It also came with a side of clear soup with tofu, seaweed and carrots.

Spices Fried Rice - $120 TWD

Spices Fried Rice – $120 TWD

When I ordered the Handmade Peanuts Tofu, I was expecting something more like fried tofu with peanut sauce (the kind I frequently used to order at Thai restaurants), but it turned out to be something I’d never tried before: block of chilled, creamy tofu with a salty, slightly sweet peanut glaze over the top.  In spite of being very different from what I expected, I enjoyed it.  I’m not a huge fan of cold tofu dishes, but the sauce was really delicious and (to me) unusual, so I wasn’t disappointed.  Plus it was really refreshing in the hot Taiwan heat!

Handmade Peanuts Tofu - $45 TWD

Handmade Peanuts Tofu – $45 TWD

Lastly, I ordered the Sweetened White Gourd Drink with Soymilk, which I’d been really anxious to try.  I’d seen a lot of stalls selling sweetened white gourd juice at Night Markets and in Ximending district, but they all seemed to contain honey, so I wasn’t able to try them.  White Gourd is a white version of the aptly-named green Bitter Melon, a squash that grows throughout Asia (and in parts of Africa and the Middle East also).  Although it’s very bitter, it’s long history of medicinal uses and unusual taste have made it very popular throughout Asia.  I’d never seen Bitter Melon juice in Japan before, so I was surprised to see so much of it in Taiwan and hoped to try it (and thanks to Yummy Vegan House, I got to!).  I was expecting it to be an interesting but slightly unpleasant experience, but actually it was incredible!  The drink was so heavily sweetened that it wasn’t bitter at all.  The flavor actually reminded me a lot of Horchata, which makes me wonder if there was a little cinnamon added into it.

Sweetened White Gourd Drink with Soymilk - $50 TWD

Sweetened White Gourd Drink with Soymilk – $50 TWD

On the way out I saw several bags of buns on the counter and had to buy them (I’m a huge fan of steam buns).  They came in mixed packs of five with some really unusual flavors: one had a sesame paste filling, on had sesame seed and edible flower petals, one had chopped pistachios and seeds, and another had berries.  Some of them I steamed in my hostel’s microwave, but I also ate a few un-steamed.  That’s probably not an acceptable way to eat them, but for a hungry vegan on the go it was really useful to have a snack like this in my bag!

5 Steam Bun Set - $250 TWD

5 Steam Bun Set – $160 TWD

The restaurant was very clean but had a relaxed, casual atmosphere.  They and English menu, although I’m not sure if the staff speak much English – I didn’t actively try to communicate with them, as it didn’t become necessary.  My food was prepared quickly, and overall I had no problems at all with service.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to return (there were just so many places to eat in Taiwan), but if I go again I will certainly be visiting here again!  I want to try that Chinese Cheese Ramen!

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Fresh Bakery – ★★★★ (Nangang District, Taipei, Taiwan)

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★★ – Excellent
  • Location: Near Kunyang Station (Blue Line), Nangang District, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Type: All Vegan; Bakery
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-10:30pm, Closed Sunday
  • Price: $$ – Average (for Taiwan, $85-$95 NTW per slice of cake)
  • Language Barrier: English Menu, Staff is mostly fluent  in English
  • Website: Fresh Bakery Facebook Page, HappyCow Page
  • Phone Number: 02-27831339
Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake

About & Location:

Fresh Bakery is an all-vegan bakery and cafe located just outside of Kunyang Station in Taipei, Taiwan. They specialize in breads and cakes, but if you call ahead they can also make pizzas and pastas for you.

To get there, take the Blue Line towards Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center, and get off at Kunyang Station. At Kunyang Station, leave through Exit 4. You’ll see two 7/11’s in front of you when you exit, one on your front-left across a small street and one on right across a major road. Go towards the one on your right, and cross the wide street. Then turn left and walk along the sidewalk past another bakery, and keep walking for 1-2 minutes until you see Fresh Bakery on your right-hand side.

Fresh Bakery Storefront

Fresh Bakery Storefront

The Address is:

  • Chinese: 台北市忠孝東路六段 466 號
  • English: 466, Sec. 6, Zhongxiao East Rd,                                                                                                                                          Nangang (Xiangyang Road), Taipei, Taiwan

Food Review:

While I’m not exactly a connoisure, I’m quite experienced in the realm of vegan-things-that-can-also-induce-a-diabetic-coma. I’ve tried at least a hundred different chocolate bars, some over $10 a bar, and I always try to sample the desserts at whatever restaurants I visit. And if you’ve read my other reviews, you may have noticied that nothing pisses me off like a dry and crumbly cake. Cake is special: if you can’t make it, don’t serve it. Which leads me to Fresh Bakery.

Fresh Bakery ranks in my top 3 restaurants during my visit to Taiwan, and it’s not even a restaurant really – it’s mainly a bakery. But oh my god, is it a BAKERY. It serves, hands down, the best vegan cake I have ever eaten. (This title was previously held by Black China Bakery in Santa Cruz, California. Sorry, guys.) Their cakes are soft and moist, and the frosting is fluffy, light, and just the right thickness. While there I tried a range of flavors (German Chocolate, Black Forest, Strawberry, Butterscotch, Chocolate Pecan), and not one of them disappointed. During my trip, I found myself unintentionally returning day after day like a sugar-fueled zombie. I had to try as many flavors as I could!

Cakes!

Cakes!

Butterscotch Cake

Butterscotch Cake

Look at that texture!

Look at that texture!

My favorites were the Butterscotch and Black Forest, which were sweet, fluffy and absolutely satisfying. My least favorite was perhaps the German Chocolate, only because it was more bitter and the frosting was dense and chewy instead of light and fluffy. However, this is nothing more than a personal preference.

German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake

They revolve their stock pretty frequently, and their menu is more of an example than a guarantee, so don’t go there absolutely set one particular flavor. But they always seem to have 4 or so cake options on hand at any given time, so you definitely get some wiggle room choice-wise. They also have a large selection of bread (including small and large loaves), drinks (including smoothies and iced tea), and if you call ahead they can prepare pizza or pasta dishes for you. Nearly everything is made as “naturally” as possible: the breads are made without baking soda or baking powder, and the colored cakes are naturally dyed (the strawberry cake gets its pink color from dragonfruit juice!).

Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake

Atmosphere & Service:

Fresh Bakery is owned and staffed largely by non-Taiwanese people, which was at first a big surprise to me!  However, as I don’t speak any Chinese, I quickly found it very comforting to know I could come in and have a long conversation with no problems.  The owner and staff are super friendly, and the first time I went I only ordered a piece a cake but was then offered a chocolate-banana smoothie sample, a new “ham and cheese” roll they were testing out, and another slice of cake on the house!  I’ve never been so buried in free food before, I felt like that kid in Matilda trying to eat the giant cake (I mean that in the best way possible).  The atmosphere is very casual and comfortable, with a  couple tables for in-house dining.  You could easily stay here for hours munching away without realizing it.

"Ham and Cheese" Bread

“Ham and Cheese” Bread

Bread Selection

Bread Selection

Overall, Fresh Bakery is an exceptional bakery.  Their attention to detail and clear commitment to providing high-quality products is admirable, and it shows in their products.  I hope they’re able to expand to Japan and beyond!

Chocolate Pecan Cake

Chocolate Pecan Cake

Black Forest Cake - this is what happens when you shove a delicate cake into the bottom of a backpack :(

Black Forest Cake – this is what happens when you shove a delicate cake into the bottom of a backpack 😦

Taiwan Vegan General

A few weeks ago, I finally got a chance to use up my remaining vacation days by heading to Taiwan for a full 10 days. Every time I told my Japanese coworkers where I was going, their immediate response was something along the lines of: “Oh, you have to eat a lot of food!” Of course, not wanting to disappoint them, I accepted the challenge (it was just courtesy, not gluttony, I swear).

Taiwan is a country known as being a haven for vegetarians. Because of it’s strong Buddhist traditions, Taiwan is home to literally thousands of vegetarian restaurants. Most of these are Buddhist vegetarian restaurants, meaning that they also often don’t use eggs or any of the 5 “stinking” vegetables (garlic especially), as they are generally considered impure. So at many vegetarian restaurants, the one thing you need to look out for is milk. Of course it’s always good to check about egg as well, as every restaurant has it’s own guidelines.

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What to Look For:

Nearly all vegetarian restaurants will have sùshí (素食), or just “su” (素) somewhere in their name. This makes it really easy to identity where you can eat. Vegetarian restaurants will also often be marked with a symbol that looks like a backwards swastika, a symbol of Buddhism. If you’re vegan, look for chúnsù (純素). I also saw one place use 全素 to refer to “vegan”, but that seemed much less common, and apparently it can also sometimes just refer to Buddhist vegetarian (so it might contain milk). I would stick to the former since most vegan places I went to marked themselves with that.

Make sure to watch out for these characters: 奶 (milk) and 蛋 (egg). If you can’t speak Mandarin I’d recommend either saving them on your phone (in large print) or printing them out on paper and carrying them with you, along with the symbols for vegan (純素) and vegetarian (素). If you’re ever not quite sure, it will be good to have these to clarify!

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Helpful Websites:

1. Vegan Taiwan Blog – An incredible catalogue of information on vegan restaurants and being vegan in Taiwan.

2. Vegan Taiwan Guide to Food Labeling – lots of helpful Chinese character labeling explanations

3.  Wikipedia Article on Buddhist Cuisine – includes standards in different countries and helpful Chinese characters