- Quality: ★★★ – Good
- Type: All Vegetarian; Taiwanese, buffet (Note: difficult for non-Chinese-speaking vegans)
- Location: Near Taiwan Main Station, Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan
- Hours: Mon-Sun, 10am-8pm
- Price: $ – Inexpensive
- Website: Restaurant Website
- Language Barrier: Almost no English spoken
Address, Access & Map:
- English: 23 Wuchang St., Section. 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City 100, Taiwan
- Chinese: 100台北市中正區武昌街一段23號
- Phone Number: 02-2381-5218
I found Sunlike Healthy Vegetarian buffet (“三來健康素食,” previously called “三來素食館”) while looking for Xiangyi Vegetarian Heaven (读读条关于), a vegetarian buffet lauded as one of the best in Taiwan. Unfortunately, it turns out that Xiangyi Vegetarian Heaven closed down about a year ago. However, since Xiangyi was located at 15 Wuchang St., and just a few doors down I found Sunlike at 23 Wuchang St.
Sunlike (I’m just going with that since that’s the website name – there’s no English name provided) is another all-vegetarian, pay-by-weight buffet located across from a Buddhist temple near Taipei Main Station. I don’t know if it’s as good as the fabled Xiangyi buffet, but it was pretty amazing. There must have been at least 50 platters of different vegetarian dishes – vegetable wraps, boiled stinky tofu, battered & fried root vegetables, steamed greens, innumerable platters of stir-fried veggies, noodles and mock-meats – it was a true vegetarian banquet.
While everything at Sunlike is vegetarian, it’s not all vegan, so you have to be careful what you choose. It’s a pay-by-weight cafe, and very popular, so you’re expected to serve yourself – which is very convenient, but also means that there’s no opportunity to ask individually about certain dishes. The place was absolutely packed at lunch time, and with only a few staff working (and with very little English language ability, and my non-existent Mandarin ability), it was essentially impossible to figure out what was vegan for sure. However, from what I’ve read online, most Buddhist vegetarian buffets don’t include egg, since egg is not traditionally considered vegetarian. I steered clear of anything that might obviously contain milk (like the desserts and mock-meat dishes), but I still can’t be 100% sure what I got was vegan. It would be best to go if you have some Chinese ability and visit outside of typical lunch hours so you can ask specifically about certain dishes, especially the noodles (which I’m now worried may possibly have contained egg).
In spite of the difficulty of verifying the vegan-ness of each dish, there is one very good, very pungent reason to visit Sunlike Vegetarian Buffet: Chou Doufu. Chou Doufu (literally “stinky tofu”) is a very accurately-named fermented tofu dish that’s super popular in Taiwan and many other Asian countries. It’s often sold in stalls in Taiwan’s hectic Night Markets, and is much-beloved by Taiwanese people. Unfortunately, although it looks vegetarian, Chou Dofu is one of those sneaky dishes that often contains lots of non-vegetarian things in it’s broth. It can be made by stewing tofu in brine fermented vegetables, but also fermented milk or meat. In addition, shrimp is often added to the brine. So don’t eat it just anywhere! Make sure it’s at a vegetarian restaurant! Unfortunately I didn’t know the bit about milk when I ate here, so I’m really, really hoping the Stinky Tofu here didn’t use fermented milk in the brine, so please ask before you try. But I’d say there’s a pretty good chance it’s vegan, so it’s worth coming here to try a really unusual and beloved Taiwanese dish!
Atmosphere & Service:
As I noted above, Sunlike is a pay-by-wait buffet, so you simple grab a to-go carton or a plate, load up what you want and pay at the front. At lunch time the place is shoulder-to-shoulder crowded, and because there’s only a few staff, you don’t get much opportunity to interact with them. Since they’re so busy I don’t think they’d take kindly to answering a bunch of questions about milk and eggs during the rush, so either come at a less-busy time or call ahead if you have questions. You can definitely sit down to eat if you want, but it’s very casual – there’s some tables and some narrow bars that you can place you food on, but it’s clearly a place where you eat quickly before you get back on your way.
Overall, I’d recommend Sunlike to vegetarians or to vegans with some Chinese ability, but for strict vegans who can’t speak any Chinese, a better-labeled or entirely-vegan restaurant would be better. After eating here I started second-guessing what I ate and wondering if things that I thought were vegan really were. I wouldn’t go back again without learning what questions to ask, so I could eat without worry. Even though traditional Taiwanese food often doesn’t contain diary, guessing was a bit too stressful for me.