Vegan Taiwan Local Specialties

About the “Local Specialties” Series:

Traveling to a foreign country as a wonderful opportunity to engage with another culture, and participating in local food culture is a crucial (and delicious!) way to immerse yourself in a new place.  However, ethical dietary restrictions can present a unique challenge to travelers: you want to experience as much as you can without violating your beliefs.  Because of this challenge, each time I travel I will not only write restaurant reviews, but also create a list of vegan or vegan-able “Local Specialties” that you can enjoy while traveling.

 

Taiwan is a vegetarian haven, and luckily, that means that many of regional foods are vegetarian too!  Of course, there are some things you can’t try, such as pig intestines and beef rolls.  But there are certainly enough famous vegan foods to keep you busy!

I. General Taiwan Vegan Specialties:

1. Vegetarian Buffets

One of the most exciting options for vegetarians visiting Taiwan is the existence of Taiwan’s vegetarian buffets.  Keep in mind that these buffets are not vegan – they may have egg or milk ingredients, and often times there are far too many people for  the staff to answer your questions (even if you do speak Mandarin).  So, it’s best to steer clear of things that likely have egg/dairy products – noodles, battered items, etc (I made the mistake of eating some of these while there, and now I’m not so sure they were vegan).  Even with those restrictions there’s usually still TONS of stuff available though! There’s lots of incredibly inexpensive vegetarian buffets in Taipei, including Minder Vegetarian (a chain) and Sunlike Vegetarian.  If you’re nervous about identifying items with eggs or milk, try out Evergreen Restaurant, a more expensive vegetarian buffet that marks items containing milk and eggs (but not honey – you’ll need to ask about that).

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2. Stinky Tofu

Chou Dofu, literally “Stinky Tofu”, is one of Taiwan’s most famous dishes.  It’s incredibly popular in Taiwan, and you can find it throughout Taipei’s many Night Markets, served in bubbling volcanic-looking vats.  However, in spite of it’s popularity, it’s definitely a dish that will send most visitor’s running.  The smell has been described as resembling rotten sewage, and many find the smell so repulsive that they find it difficult to get down.  However, it’s one of those things that I think you should try – in spite of its malodorous tendencies, it is a classic Taiwanese dish, and at worst it’s at least a good story!

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Unfortunately, in spite of it’s appearance, Stinky Tofu isn’t always vegan or even vegetarian.  While fermenting, the tofu is often soaked in shrimp brine or milk.  So, if you’d like to try Stinky Tofu, make sure to try it a vegetarian or vegan restaurant (depending on your diet).  You can find vegetarian Stinky Tofu at some vegetarian buffets, such as Minder Vegetarian and Sunlike Vegetarian. One of Taipei’s most reknown stinky tofu house, Dai’s House of Unique Stink, serves a menu of all-vegetarian and almost entirely-stinky-tofu-based dishes.  For vegan stinky tofu, I recommend visiting Mele’s Veggie Hut or Loving Hut (some of the locations carry stinky tofu, but you should call to ask).

3. Fresh Fruit & Fruit Juice

Taiwan is packed to the gills with cheap delicious fruit, so stalls selling exclusively fruit aren’t an uncommon sight at Taipei’s Night Markets.  I visited during summer, and the fruit stalls carried pineapple, watermelon, dragon fruit (both white and pink varieties), mangos, guavas and wax apples.

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There’s also tons of places where you can buy fresh fruit juice, either from stalls at Night Markets or at drink places that specialize in fruit juice.

Fresh Mango Juice in Taipei

Fresh Mango Juice in Taipei

4. Baobing (Taiwanese Shaved Ice)

One dessert you’ll see all over is Baobing, or Taiwanese Shaved Ice.  It’s essentially a pile of shaved ice topped with sweet beans (red & green), aiyu (jelly from figs), grass jelly, boba, taro, and any number of other sweet delights.  Sometimes it contains condensed milk or egg pudding, which definitely aren’t vegan. However, it’s definitely possible to get all-vegan baobing – you just have to look carefully at the ingredients.

The jellies (aiyu, grass jelly, boba, etc) are all generally vegetarian – there’s no need for gelatin because they’re naturally gelatinous substances.  However, if you’re nervous about accidentally getting something that has gelatin, you can get a bowl at Evergreen Vegetarian in Taipei.

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5. Pineapple Cake

Pineapple Cakes, a sweet cake with a chewy pineapple-y interior, are a common Taiwanese souvenir.  Sadly, most of the pineapple cakes you find in souvenir shops will con taint milk. Luckily iVegan Supermarket has 2 vegan pineapple cake options!  So, if you want to try them out or want to bring some home to your friends or coworkers, make sure to drop buy there.

Vegan Pineapple Cakes - a must-buy souvenir from Taiwan!

Vegan Pineapple Cakes – a must-buy souvenir from Taiwan!

6. Sweet Iced Teas & Bubble Tea

Sweet iced teas with tapioca pearls (boba), taro, fruit, various jellies, and more are very popular in Taiwan, and there are chain sweet producers with stores all over Taiwan.  While some of these drinks contain milk or honey, and they’re generally somewhat artificial-tasting, many of them are animal-product-free and perfect for a hot day in Taiwan.

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7. Taiwanese Tea

Tea  is very popular throughout Taiwan, and many different regions of the country specialize in the production of black, green and oolong tea. In fact, 20% of the world’s tea comes from Taiwan. Maokong Village, located on a mountain in the Wenshan District of Taipei, is famous for hiking and premium Tieguanyin oolong tea production.  It’s an excellent place to visit if you want to try some premium Taiwanese tea in Taipei.

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II. Jiufen

The beautiful town of Jiufen, just an hour outside of Taipei, is a must-see destination for anyone traveling through Taiwan’s capital.  Jiufen is famous for it’s winding Old Street and beautiful views of the sea,

1. Taro Balls & Sweet Potato Balls

Jiufen is famous for it’s taro rice balls, sweet chewy purple balls made from taro root.  You can buy these outside of Jiufen, but it’s said that the Jiufen version is subtly different (and better) from the taro balls sold in other areas.  They’re often sold in big vats, mixed with sweet potato balls and a sweet sauce, and poured into a bowl or over ice.  The taro balls themselves are vegan (so long as you eat sugar), and the sauce they’re served in is often a brown-sugar based sauce.  Obviously is best to check yourself, so if you can speak Mandarin and ask, it might be best.  However, if you’re nervous about buying them in sweet soup form, you can also just buy the taro balls themselves at certain stalls!

2. Green Tea @ Tea Houses

Jiufen is loaded with tea houses, so visiting one is an excellent opportunity to try Taiwanese tea.  Of course you can just by your own, but it’s also a good opportunity to have your tea brewed by people who know what they’re doing.  While I was in Jiuen, I visited City of Sadness restaurant and ordered a cup of their more expensive woolong tea (because hey, you have to take advantage of these opportunities!).  It was absolutely incredible to just sit there, sipping my tea on the balcony and watching as it became darker and the shops closed up.

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Woolong Tea at City of Sadness Tea House

Another excellent place to try tea is Ah Mei Teahouse, which is just a little up the staircase from City of Sadness.  This is a Japanese-style teahouse, but it still captures a lot of the atmosphere of Jiufen, and has incredible views.  It’s said that Hayao Miyazaki was inspired to create “Spirited Away” while visiting this tea house.  They have an excellent tea set for just 300TWD (about $9), which includes a pretty enormous amount of tea as well as Japanese-style tea snacks.

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III. Taroko Gorge Specialties:

1. Peaches & Pears

The Truku People are the indigenous people who originally inhabited Taroko Gorge before Chinese settlers came to Taiwan.  They still live there today, and during June & July they sell Peaches and Pears in the park.  One good place to pick up fruit is at the Taroko National Park Visitor’s Center.  The fruit is expensive – I got one peach for 100 TWD (about $3).  However, they were delicious, and it’s nice to support a local product if you can afford it.

2. Millet Wine

Another Truku product is Millet Wine, which you can buy partway down the Shakadang Trail.  It’s very sweet, but as far as I know it’s entirely vegan – it’s simply made from fermented millet.

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Vege Creek (Da’an District, Taipei) – ★★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★★  – Very Good
  • Type: Vegan Friendly; Taiwanese, Ramen
  • Location:  Near Sun Yat Sen MRT Station, Da’an District, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Hours: Mon-Sun, 12-2pm (lunch), 5-9pm (dinner)
  • Price: $$ – Moderate (Cash Only)
  • Website: Restaurant WebsiteHappyCow Page
  • Language Barrier:  Items labeled in English, staff speak some English

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About, Location & Contact:

Vege Creek is an all-vegan restaurant located in the Da’an district of Taipei, Taiwan, near Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.  It has an unusual concept:  You choose your ingredients off the wall, and the chef prepares a dish using them.  The total price is determined by which ingredients you choose.

Address & Contact:

  • English: 2, Lane 129, Yanji Street, Da-An District, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Chinese: 大安區延吉街129巷2號, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Transportation Access:  Near Sun Yat Sen MRT Station (Blue Line)
  • Phone Number: +886 2-2778-1967

 Google Map:


Restaurant Review:

Vege Creek is an all-vegan restaurant with a very unique atmosphere.  There’s no menu in the traditional sense: Instead, you choose your ingredients from the walls!  When I visited, one wall was lined with glass cups filled with various greens, while another had an arrangement of metal baskets filled with seasonal vegetables,  mushrooms, vegan “meats,” and various toppings (nori flakes, etc).

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Every metal bowl is labeled with the names and prices for each ingredient it contains.  The total cost is the some of the cost of your ingredients. After I chose my vegetables, I could choose from 5 tiles, each of which represented a different noodle choices. The tiles had both Chinese and English written on them, so you’ll know what you’re choosing. (My photos in this post are poor-quality, unfortunately, since I took them at night.  I high recommend checking out this Chinese-language blog for way better photos!).

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After you’re finished choosing, you go to the front, give the chef your ingredients, and he’ll ring you up.  Then, he’ll cook a dish using the ingredients you’ve chosen. My friend and I received hot, delicious bowls of ramen!

 

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Everything is very modern:  it’s very simple with lots of exposed metal, cement and  light wood. Dining is communal:  There’s just one long wooden table, encircled in tall bar stools, placed at the center of the room.  Unfortunately it can only seat about 10-12 people at a time, which means that you may have to wait for a seat when you arrive.  My friend and I visited at 8 on a weekday and were able to get 2 seats, but we had to wait for about 10 minutes for room to open up.

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However, even if you have to wait, I highly recommend visiting here.  The service is excellent – there’s only one server and he patiently helped my friend and I to understand how to choose our ingredients.  The spare decor perfectly mirrored the focus on simple, fresh ingredients, and the communal atmosphere was really refreshing.  The food was simple but really delicious, and overall it’s a very unique restaurant that’s definitely worth visiting.

iVegan Supermarket (Wenshan District, Taipei) – ★★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★★ – Very Good
  • Location: near Wanlong MRT Station, Wenshan District, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Type: All Vegan; Grocery Store
  • Hours: Mon-Sun 7:00am-10:00pm
  • Price: Varies by item
  • Website: HappyCow Page, Supermarket Website

About & Location:

iVegan is Taiwan’s only all-vegan supermarket, and is located in the Wenshan District of Taipei.  It offers a large selection of fresh produce, imported and domestic snack foods, and frozen/chilled items such as vegan butter, kimchee, and ice cream.  iVegan is VERY well-marked, and you’ll find several luminescent signs directing you to the store from blocks away.  Seriously, it’s the best marked building I’ve ever seen outside of landmarks.

Address, Access & Contact:

  • English Address: 54, Wanlong Street, Wenshan District, Taipei, Taiwan 11675
  • Chinese Address: 文山區萬隆街54號, Taipei, Taiwan 11675
  • Train Station Access: Wanlong MRT Station, Exit 1
  • Phone Number: 02-2935-0900

Google Map:

Supermarket Review:
iVegan is Taiwan’s only all-vegan supermarket, and is an absolute must-visit for any vegans living in Taipei or even just visiting for an extended period.  Whether you’re looking for fresh produce, soy products, snacks, sweets, sauces, or pretty much any other type of food you can think of, you’ll find it here.  Everything that’s edible is vegan.    The produce section is really incredible, although since you can buy fruits and veggies everywhere in Taiwan, it’s not a reason to visit on its own. However, it makes shopping here really convenient, since you can get both your fresh food, frozen food and snack food in one go!

iVegan Produce Section

iVegan Produce Section

iVegan Produce Section

iVegan Produce Section

They have a cold case filled with tofu products, soy milk, vegan mayo, vegan butter, kimchee, and other usually-not-vegan delights that will please anyone who’s here for an extended period.  Many of these products are imported (like Veganaise and Earth Balance), so I was really surprised to see them there!

Cool Case (Filled with vegan butters, kimchees, and more!)

Cool Case (Filled with vegan butters, mayos, and more!)

The rest of the store (and there’s a lot more – the produce section is only about 1/4 of it) is filled with aisle after aisle of noodles, baking supplies, cooking oils and sauces, packaged food and several frozen cases.   I didn’t photograph nearly all of it, unfortunately, but you can get some glimpses.  They have some imported food, which I’m sure will be an exciting prospect for expats living in Taipei.  But for those visiting, they ask have an expansive selection of Taiwanese snack-food, which is ideal when you’re popping from place to place while sightseeing.  If you’re going to be traveling around, I really recommend coming in here and grabbing at least a few high-calorie snacks to keep you going – in some of the smaller towns finding vegetarian food can be a bit tricky, and it will save you time trying to decode Chinese characters in convenience stores.

Snacks! Snacks! Snacks!

Snacks! Snacks! Snacks!

If you’re staying for a while and want to get cooking, they also have a wonderful selection of sauces, including lots of stir-fry sauces.  I’m a huge fan of stir-fry because I’m lazy and won’t eat my vegetables unless they’re covered in oil, so I was sad I couldn’t buy all of these and bring them home with me!

Delicious stir-fry sauces

Delicious stir-fry sauces

The frozen cases also had lots of exciting options – bagels, pizzas, ice cream, pies and more! They also have some cookware on sale, although I imagine there are cheaper options out there.

Cold Case

Cold Case (Vegan pizzas, ice cream, bagels, more!)

2nd Cold Case

2nd Cold Case

One thing I was really excited to find was a box of Pineapple Cakes. Pineapple Cakes are a delicious Taiwanese cake with a chewy pineapple-flavored filling. I can’t speak for every place,  but in Japan, Pineapple Cakes seemed to be the most popular Taiwanese souvenir (tea was also popular).   It seemed like every teacher who visited Taiwan inevitably returned with 20 pounds of pineapple cakes.  Pineapple Cake in and of itself isn’t hard to find, but unfortunately it often isn’t vegan – most of the options I looked at elsewhere had milk or butter or eggs or some combination of thereof.  So if you want to bring a box home, I recommend stopping by iVegan!

Vegan Pineapple Cakes - a must-buy souvenir from Taiwan!

Pineapple Cakes

If you’d like to try Pineapple Cake but aren’t up for scarfing down a whole box, they also have some in the bakery section (or at least, they did when I visited).  I ended up opting for this smaller portion, since I knew I wouldn’t have room for a whole box on my way home. The pineapple cakes are the little yellow bundles next to the bread on the far right of this photo.

The iVegan bakery selection is incredible

The iVegan bakery selection is incredible

The bakery section also has an incredible selection of vegan pastries that I doubted existed: croissants, cream-filled horns, and buns galore.  I ended up getting a Cream Horn (which I’ve never eaten before) and a Bun filled with sweet bean jam.  They were both incredible.  The Cream Horn was really fluffy and the cream was thick and delicious (although perhaps not as fluffy as traditional non-vegan cream horns are – that’s just a guess though, having never eaten one).  The Sweet Bean Bun was a prefect on-the-go snack, and I wish I’d stocked up on more!

Cream Horn

Cream Horn

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Another pastry from iVegan (looks like a croissant)

There’s also a home products section, filled with cleaning supplies, detergents, etc.  However, from what I’ve read online, it seems that many of these products are tested on animals – importing things like detergents and soaps is not simple matter and they probably would have been so expensive that it wasn’t worth selling them.  That said, if you’re willing to spend the money for imported non-tested-on-animals home products, you’ll want to look elsewhere or do a little background research on the individual products before you buy.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend checking iVegan out, even if you’re just here for sightseeing.  Firstly, it’s just wonderful to walk into a store and know that you can eat absolutely everything.  And secondly, you can pick up lots of snacks for busy traveling!

Loving Hut: Huaining Branch – ★★★★ (ZhongZheng District, Taipei)

Assorted Fried Noodle

Assorted Fried Noodle

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★★ – Very Good
  • Location:  near Taipei Main Station (M8 Exit), ZhongZheng District, Taipei
  • Type: All Vegan; Fast food, Asian & European
  • Hours: Mon-Sun, 11:00 am – 8:30 pm (closed on first Sunday of the month)
  • Price: $$ – Average (Main dishes about $100-$150 TWD)
  • Website: Restaurant Website (about, menu), HappyCow Page
  • Language Barrier: English menu available, little English spoken

About & Location:

The Huaining Street location of the international vegan food chain Loving Hut.  There are numerous locations in Taipei, each with it’s own speciality.  This locations specializes in fast food (both European and Asian), and serves everything from vegan nuggets to bowls of phó.  It’s just a 10 minute walk from Taipei Main Station, which makes it very conveniently located.

Address & Location:

  • English Address: 44, Huaining Street, ZhongZheng District, Taipei, Taiwan 100
  • Chinese Address: 100 台北市中正區懷寧街44號
  • Transport Access: Taipei Main Station MRT Station (Red Line, Blue Line), M8 Exit
  • Phone Number: (02) 2311-9399

Google Map:

 

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Restaurant Review:

Loving Hut has numerous locations in Taipei, each specializing in a different style of food.   Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to stop by some of their other enticing-looking locations (such as the Guangfu Branch that specializes in Hot Pot dishes), but because of the Huaining Branch’s central location I was able to stop there several times, and was never disappointed.

Like most Loving Huts, this branch has an enormous selection – you can choose from dozens of main dishes, from Spaghetti to Thai Noodle Soup.  They have a large number of Chinese dishes, but there are also plenty of international (both European/American and Asian) options.  Everything is vegan, and dishes are also marked if they contain any of the “5 pungents” (stinky vegetables that Buddhists sometimes exclude from their diet).

During my first visit, I got the Assorted Fried Noodle & a side of chocolate Ice Cream (they also had Durian flavored ice cream, but I decided to stick to the safe side).  The Stir-fry was just perfect – not too oily, with lots of veggies, and the serving size was so large I had to take it home and finish it for dinner!  The Ice cream was good but a bit too icy for my tastes – it seemed more like an icy chocolate sorbet (come to think of it, maybe it was a sorbet and not an ice cream at all), and I generally prefer things that are a little softer and creamier and with a lower water content.  However, it was still really good!  But I would recommend getting the cake if you’re choosing between desserts.

Assorted Fried Noodle

Assorted Fried Noodle

Assorted Fried Noodle

Assorted Fried Noodle

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

I also got a slice of the Black Forest Cake to-go (for 120 TWD), which I later found out was from Fresh Bakery!  You can get the same cake for about 90 TWD at Fresh Bakery’s headquarters, but if you aren’t likely to be in that area, definitely stop by this Loving Hut and see if they have any Fresh offerings. It’s the best vegan cake I’ve ever had, and the Black Forest was among my favorite flavors.  The staff also threw in a milk tea for free, which I thought was incredibly sweet!

Fresh Bakery Black Forest Cake & Milk Tea

Fresh Bakery Black Forest Cake & Milk Tea

During my next visit I got the Noodles with Wonton in Chili Oil, which was just amazing.  It actually wasn’t that spicy (I was surprised), but still had a very rich and intense flavor.  I’ve had wontons before but never this dish, so it was really fun for me to try out something new.  Again, the serving size was hug and I was unable to finish it all, so I basically got 2 meals for my money!

Noodles with Wonton in Chili Oil

Noodles with Wonton in Chili Oil

I also ordered a glass of black tea and a slice of their Heaven’s Silhouette Cake in Coffee.  I’m used to unsweetened black tea, but this was definitely very very very sweetened, so if you prefer your tea without sugar you definitely need to ask.  This alone could have been dessert.  The cake was really good, although not really comparable to Fresh Bakery’s amazing cakes (which are sometimes for sale at Loving Hut, but weren’t on this day).  It was absolutely worth ordering though, and if you don’t see any of the Fresh cake’s in the dessert display cakes, definitely get one of these.  They’re more like a cream pie or cheese cake in texture, and are very rich and satisfying.

Black Tea & Heaven's Silhouette Cake (Coffee Flavor)

Black Tea & Heaven’s Silhouette Cake (Coffee Flavor)

Heaven's Silhouette Cake (Coffee Flavor)

Heaven’s Silhouette Cake (Coffee Flavor)

Since I was headed out to Taroko Gorge the following day, I also ordered some items to-go. I ended up just pointing at photos on the Chinese-language menu, so I really have no idea what the names of the things I got are.  They were interesting though!  The first thing I got was a dish with mock-meat, some sort of thick sea-vegetable (I think?) and a meaty mushroom.  The flavor was good but, at least for me, it was a lot of unusual texture to handle in one meal – even the mushrooms were unusual!  They were really thick and smooth, and kind of reminded me of bologna.

~Mystery Dish #1~ A dish with seaweed, mock meat and mushrooms.

~Mystery Dish #1~ A dish with seaweed, mock meat and mushrooms.

Next off, I ordered what I thought were “chicken” nuggets but I’m now pretty sure were fried stinky tofu.  They had a really strange flavor and I almost didn’t finish them, because I was expecting something much more conventional (read: American)-tasting.  Later I ate stinky tofu at another restaurant, and the flavor was very similar, so I think that must be what it was!  It was served with ketchup though, which seems like an odd choice.  So maybe it was chicken nuggets after all.  I may never know!

~mystery dish~ #2 (Maybe fried Stinky Tofu?)

~mystery dish~ #2 (Maybe fried Stinky Tofu?)

The atmosphere is quite casual, and there’s lots of seating (both downstairs and upstairs).  Both times I went it wasn’t super crowded and I didn’t have any difficulty finding a spot to sit.  The staff are very sweet and helpful, and although their English (in general) isn’t fluent, most of the staff members seemed to speak a little bit, and there’s an English menu available.  If I’m every in Taipei again I’ll definitely go back, and I highly recommend that you check it out if you’re in the Taipei Main Station area!

Loving Hut - Huaining Branch Interior

Loving Hut – Huaining Branch Interior

Evergreen Vegetarian Restaurant (Zhongshan District, Taipei) – ★★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★★ –  Very Good
  • Type: All Vegetarian (Vegan-friendly); Taiwanese/Chinese Buffet, all-you-can-eat
  • Location: Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Price: $$$ – A Little Expensive  (for Taipei – about 400-550 NTW for the buffet)
  • Language Barrier: English labels but little English spoken (usually an English-speaking staff member around though)
  • Website: HappyCow Page, Restaurant Website
My Dinner at Evergreen

My Dinner at Evergreen

About, Location, Access, & Contact:

Evergreen Vegetarian Restaurant (長春素食餐廳 in Chinese) is a slightly upscale, Buddhist vegetarian buffet located north of the Taipei Main Station area. Unfortunately, it isn’t located particularly close to any train stations.  It’s about halfway between Zhongshan MRT Station (red line) and Nanjing East Road MRT Station (brown line).  It’s about a 15 walk from either station. However, the 吉林國小‎ bus stop is fairly close by, and can be reached on bus line 606. (Other buses may stop here too, but I’m not sure).

Address:

  • English Address: 38, Section 2, Xinsheng North Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei
  • Chinese Address: 台北市中山區新生北路二段38號
  • Phone Number: 02-2511-5656

Map: 

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Restaurant Review:

When I asked a vegetarian friend what restaurant I should check out while in Taiwan, she told me that Evergreen was so good she still dreamt about it and that I absolutely HAD to go.  With a recommendation like that I had to make the time to go, so one night another friend an I made the trek out to it.  It’s annoyingly far from at MRT stations (you’re going to end up walking 15-2o minutes no matter what station you get off at), which might have deterred me.  But I was determined to see what all the fuss was about!

I was surprised by how upscale it was – it’s a Taiwanese vegetarian buffet, but unlike others I went to it’s definitely not intended to be a quick in-out eatery.  You pay flat fee for lunch or dinner (anywhere between TWD 400 and TWD 600), and it’s all-you-can eat .  There’s two huge dining rooms with big and small white-tablecloth-draped tables, and although it’s busy the atmosphere is still much more refined – this is a place to eat and talk and really enjoy dinner as a communal activity.

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They have a HUGE variety of food at the buffet – Steamed buns, battered & fried vegetables, fried rice, noodles, stir-fired vegetables, soups and stews, sushi, and more.  You can even get made-to-order fried dishes from cooks in the back, although I was nervous about trying to convey what I wanted, so I didn’t get anything from them. There was a drink bar with coffee, tea, and other drinks.  Desserts included an array of cakes (mostly non-vegan, unfortunately), fresh fruit, and a stand where you could prepare your own Taiwanese shaved ice.

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Steamed Dumpling Selection – most were vegan!

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Fried Vegetables (green beans, sweet potatoes, etc)

Vegan Sushi- some look just like real sashimi!

Vegan Sushi- some look just like real sashimi!

Taiwan-style Fried Rice - so delicious!

Taiwan-style Fried Rice – so delicious!

Many Taiwanese buffets have a similar cornucopia of options, but one of the real benefits of Evergreen was not having to play a guessing game about was and wasn’t vegan.  I went to several other buffets, but because of their low cost, limited staff and  crowd of customers, I basically had to just use my best judgement to guess what did or didn’t contain milk.  Evergreen took away all the anxiety – the friend I went with asked the staff what items contained egg or milk, and staff noted that all the items with eggs or milk have little signs next them that mark them as ova-vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian.  The person I approached didn’t speak English  Anything unmarked, they said, didn’t contain milk or eggs.  I don’t think honey would be an issue in most dishes, but if you’re concerned and can speak Mandarin it’s worth asking.  I also read online that there’s usually an English speaking staff member around, so even without a Chinese-speaking friend, you should be able to get your questions answered. Unfortunately the milk-and-egg signs are in only Chinese, so brush up on your vegan vocab before you go!

I saw a review on Happy Cow saying that only 1/3 of the options were vegan, which surprised me.  When I went, it was at least 3/4 vegan (probably more), and most of the non-vegan dishes were the desserts.  Maybe the options vary by day, or perhaps they’ve upped their game since that review was made.

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The sign denotes that this dessert contains milk! (奶素 = Lacto Vegetarian)

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Some items are also marked lacto-ovo-vegetarian(蛋奶素)

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This dish also contains milk – see sign!

I ended up not eating as much as I wish I had – I should have come hungry and just eaten everything in sight, but I got caught up in talking and didn’t focus on the food as much as I should have, unfortunately.  I didn’t really get my money’s worth, I only got one plate! I got the fried rice, a coconut steam bun, a rice ball, some battered veggies, a slice of the “sashimi”, some noodle stir-fry and water chestnuts.  The sashimi was really interesting – obviously it didn’t taste like fish, but the texture and coloring was really similar.  I have no idea what they made it out of!  It wasn’t really delicious (it didn’t taste like much), but it was fun to try, so I recommend it!  Everything else was really good, but my favorites was the steam bun, which had a rich coconut flavor.  I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it was so yummy!

My Dinner at Evergreen

My Dinner at Evergreen

For dessert, I made my own Taiwanese Shaved Ice.  I’d been nervous about ordering it from other places – I know it sometimes contains condensed milk, so I was afraid of ordering it at a regular restaurant or stall, although I saw it all over.  Here you could make your own, by taking a scoop of shaved ice and piling on sweet beans, different flavored jellies (without fear of gelatin!), sweet jam and more. I added some fruit too, which isn’t traditional, but I really wanted to try some!  It was incredible, and I was so happy to have a chance to try it worry-free!

Taiwanese Shaved Ice Dessert at Evergreen

Taiwanese Shaved Ice Dessert at Evergreen

Overall, what little service I needed was excellent, the restaurant itself was clean and spacious, and the food was really delightful. If you’re vegan and you only have a chance to stop by one Taiwanese buffet, I recommend this one, because you won’t have to play an uncomfortable guessing game about whether or not your food is vegan.  Don’t miss it! I only wish I’d tried more while I was there – hopefully next time I’m in Taiwan I’ll have a chance to stop by!

Vegan Airport Food Guide – Taipei Taoyuan International Airport

Dinner at Homee Kitchen

Dinner at Homee Kitchen

International air travel is never a particularly relaxing experience, but it can be particularly stressful for people with dietary restrictions.  Not all international airlines offer vegetarian or vegan meals, and after 12 hours of flying, that packed lunch you brought along might be more likely to induce nausea than a comfortable sense of satisfaction and well-being.  You might end up getting off at your destination hungry, or worse, you might find yourself marooned for hours (or even a day) in a foreign airport on a layover.  At times such times, it’s good to know whether you can depend on finding food.  So, I’m going to start a new travel segment: Vegan Airport Food Guides!  Whenever I travel, I’ll try report on places to eat, dishes to order and any other interesting things I see.

At most of the airports I’ve been to, finding vegan food has been fairly challenging.  However, much like Taiwan itself, the Taipei Taoyuan International Airport has quite a few options for vegans and vegetarians.  I will list the vegetarian places that I personally know about, but keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list – there are no doubt numerous other places to get vegetarian food in addition to these.  You can explore other restaurants in Taipei Taoyuan here.

1. Li Pin Vegetarian

  • Type: Vegetarian (probably has vegan options)
  • Location: Departure Area, Terminal 1 – B1F (Basement 1st Floor)
  • Hours: 10:00~22:00
  • Website: Airport Page

There’s a cafeteria in the Basement Floor of Terminal 1, in the non-secure area of the airport (before you go through security/check-in).  Li Pin Vegetarian is located inside the cafeteria.  Sadly I didn’t have a chance to visit this restaurant, but luckily a few other wonderful travelers have documented their experiences at this restaurant here and here.

 

2. Homee Kitchen

  • Type: NOT vegetarian (has 3 vegetarian options, 1 vegan option)
  • Location: Departure Area, Terminal 1 – 3F (near A4 Gate Area)*
  • Hours: 6:00 ~ 23:00
  • Website: Airport Page, Company Website
  • *Special Note:  According to the website there’s 3 other locations in the Terminal 1 Departure Area, but I didn’t see them.
  • Language Barrier: English menu, Staff speak great English

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Homee Kitchen isn’t a vegetarian restaurant, but it has a couple of vegetarian options and at least 1 vegan option. All the vegetarian options are marked with a green “素”. There are 3 vegetarian options: the vegetable & mushroom noodle soup, a Vegetarian Set with Rice, and vegetable buns (served at breakfast).  The only thing that I know is for-sure vegan is the Vegetable & Mushroom Noodle Soup.  The other vegetarian dinner option, the Vegetarian Set with Rice, is NOT vegan (I asked). The vegetable buns may be vegan, but I was there for dinner so they weren’t available to order. If you’d like them, just ask the staff if they contain milk or egg.  They’re very helpful & speak perfect English!

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I got earl grey iced tea, a cup of fresh pressed Taiwan soy milk, and the Vegetable & Mushroom Noodle Soup Set.  Maybe it was just the jetlag and 9-hour-layover talking, but I thought it was DELICIOUS.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone stuck in the departure area during lunch and dinner – it’s a good deal (for airport food) and incredibly warm and filling, perfect for an achey tired traveller!

Dinner at Homee Kitche

Vegetable & Mushroom Noodle Soup Set at Homee Kitchen – $170 TWD

Vegetable & Mushroom Noodle Soup

Vegetable & Mushroom Noodle Soup

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Hijiki Edamame Salad

 

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Shitake Salad & Hijiki and Edamame side salads

3. I-Mei Food Company

  • Type: NOT vegetarian (has a vegan option)
  • Location: Departure Area, Terminal 2 -4F
  • Hours: 06:00~22:30
  • Website: Airport PageCompany Website
  • Language Barrier: English menu, some English spoken

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I got hungry again as my departure time approached, so I went on the hunt again for vegetarian food.  I notice quite a few places had options that might be vegetarian, but ultimately I ended up at I-mei.  It’s definitely not a vegetarian restaurant (almost everything on the menu is meat), but they have a vegetable dumpling set. I asked if they contained meat, egg or milk, and after some initial hesitation  they said no. Hopefully that was the correct information – due to the  hesitation, I’d encourage you to ask yourself as well (just to confirm).

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t particularly impressed by this meal.  They weren’t terrible, but the dumpling just didn’t have much flavor at all – I feel like it could have used some sort of sauce or spice or something to add some flavor.  I’ve encountered this problem at other vegetarian Chinese restaurants though – I think I may just be so used to pan-fried dumpling that when I eat steamed dumplings, I’m disappointed by the lack of fat.  The soup was thick and a bit slimy in texture, but quite flavorful. I couldn’t finish it but what I did eat, I enjoyed.  Overall, I would recommend other restaurants over this one, but if dumpling are you’re thing it might be a good choice.

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Vegetable Dumpling Set

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Have any experiences of your own in Taipei Taoyuan Airport?  Please leave your recommendations in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Mele’s Vegie Hut (Ximending, Wanhua, Taipei) – ★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★ – Good
  • Type: All Vegan (According to HappyCow; Please check!); Taiwanese & Chinese
  • Location: Ximending, Wanhua District, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Train Access: Ximen MRT Station (Blue Line), Exit 1
  • Price: $ – Inexpensive ( $120 TWD/$350 USD for a main dish)
  • Hours: Mon-Sun 10:30am-8:30pm
  • Website: HappyCow Page
  • Language Barrier:  English Menu available (with Pictures), Little English spoken

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About & Location:

Address:

  • English: 1F, 84, Nijiang Street, Wanhua District, Taipei, Taiwan 10845
  • Phone Number:  02-2389-4037

Google Map: 


Restaurant Review:

According to Happy Cow, Mele’s Vegi Hut is all vegan. However, when I visited I couldn’t find any evidence that the menu was all vegan.  I didn’t see “vegan” or “純素” written anywhere in the restaurant or on the menu, although “素” (vegetarian) was posted at the front of the shop.  So presumably all of the “meat” written on the menu isn’t vegetarian imitation meat, but imitation meat often contains milk or egg products.  So if you eat here, I’d  recommend either asking whether the food is vegan (if you speak Mandarin) or stick to dishes that are unlikely to have any animal products in them.

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When I first came in they handed me a Chinese menu, but when it became clear that I couldn’t read anything, the waiter ran and got me a menu with English translations. I  ordered the Hot & Spicy Tofu Pot ($120 TWD) and Hot & Spicy Wantons ($80 TWD), as well as a side of rice (I’m not sure how much that cost).  I asked if those items were “全素” (I just pointed to those kanji on my phone, I didn’t realize at the time that “純素” is a better/ more clear way to ask if something is vegan).  The waiter seemed confused for a second but ran back to the kitchen to ask, and when he returned he said it was ok.  So, I really hope what I got was vegan!  Do check just to be sure, ask if what you’re ordering contains 奶 (milk) or 蛋 (egg).

Hot & Spicy Tofu Pot - $120 (TWD) + rice

Hot & Spicy Tofu Pot – $120 (TWD) + rice

Hot & Spicy Tofu Pot Close-up

Hot & Spicy Tofu Pot Close-up

The hot pot was really good, and actually was pretty spicy – I had to run to the bathroom to blow my nose!  It  was filled with soft tofu, mushrooms, and various boiled veggies, all immersed in a spicy viscous stock.  It was so filling that I couldn’t even get through half of it, and had to ask for it to go.

Hot & Spicy Wanton - $80 (TWD)

Hot & Spicy Wanton – $80 (TWD)

The wantons I wasn’t quite sure about.  They contain veggie “pork,” and since I asked about their veganism using the wrong characters, and didn’t ask specifically about milk or egg, I can’t guarantee they’re vegan.  At the time I thought I’d ask the right question so I ate them, and I have to say they were really good.  They were so realistically pork-y that I panicked for a second and wondered whether or not they were actually vegetarian, which is originally what caused me to ask the waiter if everything was vegetarian.  They weren’t quite so spicy as the hotpot soup, but did come immersed in a chili oil sauce that made them really rich.

Mele's Vegi Hut interior

Mele’s Vegi Hut interior

The interior is very cozy (although a bit cramped), with warm colors and slightly low lighting.  All of the other patrons seemed to be Taiwanese, and theres very little English signage, so I felt a little bit out of place (in comparison to some of the other restaurants I visited). But they had an English menu and were really friendly to me, so I encourage you to go – but speaking some Mandarin would probably help!

三來健康素食 Sunlike Healthy Vegetarian Buffet (Zhongsheng, Taipei) – ★★★

Quick Check:

  • 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:

Address:

  • 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

Google Map:

Sign over the Restaurant

Sign over the Restaurant

Restaurant Review

Food:

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.

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Desserts!

Desserts!

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).

My Order - $95 NTW

My Order – $95 NTW

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!

Stinky Tofu

Stinky Tofu

More Stinky Tofu?

More Stinky Tofu?

Bowl of Stinky Tofu - $25 TWD

Bowl of Stinky Tofu – $25 TWD

 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:

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.

About Animals (Wenshan District, Taipei) – ★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★ – Good
  • Location: : Near Wanlong MRT Station, Wenshan District, Taipei, Taiwan 
  • Type: All Vegan; Burgers, Asian Fusion
  • Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun 2-11:30pm; Closed Thursdays
  • Price: $$ – Average (about $200 TWD for a burger)
  • Website: Restaurant Website, Happy Cow Page
  • Language Barrier: Menu has some English

About, Access & Contact:

About Animals (called 動物誌 in Chinese) is an all-vegan restaurant that serves creative Asian-fusion burgers, fried side-dishes and beer (both on-tap and bottled).  It was established by Animals Rights activisits, is very LGBT-friendly, and serves as an art space.  It’s about a 3-4 minute walk from Wanlong MRT Station.  Unfortunately it’s a little bit tricky to find. It is located int he Wenshan district of Taipei, an approximately 3-minute walk from Wanlong MRT Station. Unfortunately it’s a little bit tricky to find.

Walking Directions:  At Wanlong MRT Station, go to Exit 2.  When you get to the top of the escalator at Exit 2, you’ll find you can exit either to the left or right side of the building. Go out the LEFT side of the buidling, towards the 7/11.  Then turn right when you exit (7/11 will be on your right-hand side), and walk along the road.  Turn left at the next intersection.  Then take a right at the next intersection (you’ll see a small stone marker with red Chinese characters on your right side – turn at this marker). Walk just a little ways down this street, and About Animals will be on your right.

Address:

  • English: 9, Lane 1, Taipei, Jinglong Street, Wenshan District, Taipei, Taiwan 116
  • Chinese: 台北市文山區景隆街1巷9號 116
  • Phone Number: 02-2935-3633

Google Map:


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Food Review:

About Animals Menu

About Animals Menu

I only visited About Animals at night.  Sadly, as I’ve noted in previous posts, my camera is worthless in low-light situations (maybe if I stopped eating out so much I could afford a better camera).  Unfortunately this means that most of my photos of food from About Animals are less that impressive.  Just trust me, it all looked way better (and less blurry!) in person.

The first time I went I ordered the Kimchi Burger (220 TWD), because I never really have a chance to order kimchi-anything (I’m always too worried about fish sauce lurking in the kimchi).  The bun was incredible,w which you can kind of see in the photos – whole wheat, with oats and seeds pressed into it.  It was about comparable in size to burgers I’ve received in Japan – a little smaller than US-sized veggie burgers but still big enough for a full meal if you have something on the side (like french fries).  The burger itself was was really good, but the exterior was too crispy for my tastes – the roof of my mouth is really sensitive, so the ultra-crispiness of the burger wasn’t ideal for me.  That said, if you prefer really crispy/crunchy fried foods, I think you’d really like it.  The burger was slathered with kimchee, and red oil dripped from the burger, but I didn’t find it too spicy or overwhelming.  The upside of the drippiness was that you could mop up the extra sauce with your fries!

Kimchi Burger - $220 (TWD)

Kimchi Burger – $220 (TWD)

Kimchi Burger Close-up

Kimchi Burger Close-up

I also got the deep fried mushrooms, which were served in a cool woven tray.  They were also crispy but not as rough as the burgers, and made a delicious snack – be careful though, they’re hot!

Deep Fried Mushrooms - $70 (TWD)

Deep Fried Mushrooms – $70 (TWD)

The next time I visited I go the Fried Wasabi Burger ($220 TWD) and  Deep Fried Yams ($70 TWD).  The burger was similar to the one from my previous visit, although the exterior was a little less rough – the previous batch may have been unusual.  The top was slathered in what seemed to be a sort of wasabi/vegan mayo combo, which was spicy and ric.  However, I think I still like the kimchee burger more – something about the dripping spicy oil just made that one so good!  The deep fried yams were downright delicious – the flavor was similar to sweet potato fries but the wide cuts and thick batter made them unique.

Wasabi Burger - $220 (TWD)

Wasabi Burger – $220 (TWD)

Deep Fried Yams - $70 (TWD)

Deep Fried Yams – $70 (TWD)

Overall, I recommend visiting About Animals if you’re in the area, especially if you really like unusual veggie burgers! However, it’s a little out-of-the-way for most sightseers, and I do think the burgers were a little overly-rough – but that may just be a personal preference.

 

Ooh Cha Cha (Zhongzheng, Taipei) – ★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★ – Good
  • Type: All Vegan; Sandwiches, Grain Bowls & Green Drinks
  • Location:  Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Transit Access: Guting MRT Station, Exit 2
  • Price: $$ – Average (Lunch about $150-$250 TWD)
  • Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-9pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm
  • Website: Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
  • Menu: Click Here
  • Language Barrier: English Menu, English-speaking staff
  • Phone Number: 02-2367-7133

About & Location:

Ooh Cha Cha is a casual healthy-eating restaurant serving sandwiches, grain bowls, juices, and raw desserts. They are located in the Zhongzheng District of Taipei, Taiwan.  It’s only a 1-minute walk from Guting MRT Station.  Take Exit 2, and walk until the first interesection (a little side-street at your right).  Look down the side-street, and you’ll see Ooh Cha Cha just a little down the street.

Address:

  • Chinese: 台北市南昌路二段207號
  • English: 207, Sec. 2, Nanchang Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan

Google Map:


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Restaurant Review:

Sadly I was only able to go to Ooh Cha Cha once, so I didn’t get to try many of their offerings.  However, the one time I went, I had a really good experience.  Generally I don’t much like “health food” restaurants – I may be vegan but I have a terrible diet, and I’m generally more fond of “vegan junk food” restaurants.  However, Ooh Cha Cha’s offerings are interesting and creative enough that I would gladly have returned.

I ordered the Tofu Banh Mi (Vietnamese-style sandwich) with “Non-GMO tofu, pickled carrots and radish, organic cucumber, walnut pate, cilantro, cashew mayo on a whole wheat roll” (according to their website).  It was delicious – not too stuffed with fillings, but just enough that you could really taste all the flavors.  The bread was also really exceptional – It was a soft without with being the mushy cake-bread that I often see in Japan.  It came with a little shredded cabbage side-salad with a vegan mayo dressing.  It was honestly the perfect light meal to get through the hot summer heat.

Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich - $150 TWD

Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich – $150 TWD

Since it was so veggie-heavy, the sandwich served more as a light meal, and I was still hungry afterwards.  I also ordered one of the “Green Drinks” to go with, for just $100 TWD extra.  I got the Tropical Bliss, which is a blend of coconut milk, banana, pineapple, and seasonal greens.  I’m don’t generally drink “green drinks,” but this one was exceptional – the strong flavors of coconut and pineapple disguised any vegetable flavor, and the banana made it nice and thick.  The combo of the sandwich and green drink ended up filling me up just perfectly, so I’d definitely recommend ordering them as a set.

Tropical Bliss Green Drink (set with sandwich) - $100 TWD

Tropical Bliss Green Drink (set with sandwich) – $100 TWD

The cafe was very clean and bright (it’s entirely surrounded by windows), which made for a really relaxing atmosphere.  It seems to be really popular with foreigners, as I saw several others there when I visited.  The menu comes with photos and English explanations, and when I was there the waitress spoke perfect English (to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if she had been raised in the US), so there are no worries about a language barrier at this restaurant.

Overall, I’d say that Ooh Cha Cha is definitely worth checking out.  It wasn’t wow-inducing, but it was still very good and I would definitely recommend visiting if you’ll be in the area.