If the idea of juicy dumplings filled with leeks gets your mouth watering or a spicy portion of chili tofu in fried rice, Taiwan might just be the perfect destination for you. In Taiwan you will find that veggie options are easily available almost everywhere; in supermarkets, street stalls, restaurants, buffets and even in the back of small trucks. There is even an entire vegan supermarket in Taipei called ivegan. Could you ask for more!
With Taipei’s vegetarian restaurant per capita exceeding that of London and New York City, Taiwan's love for fruit, vegetables, and tofu make it one of the best veggie destinations In the world, here's why.
- Taiwan is one of the few countries in the world where vegetarianism is respected because of its deep Buddhist roots. Chinese Buddhism is based on the Dharmic concept of ahimsa (non-violence), which applies to all living beings including animals. As 10 % of Taiwan is Buddhist, vegetarianism is common here even for meat eaters, who sometimes choose to be vegetarian at certain times of the year, for religious or for health reasons.
2. Vegetarian labeling laws are very strict in Taiwan. Laws state that food labeled as vegetarian must specify whether or not it is vegan, vegan without onion, garlic, and related herbs (for Buddhists), Lacto-veg ( no milk), ovo-veg (no eggs) or Lacto-ovo veg (no eggs or milk). There are serious fines for companies breaching this policy.
3. You'll see tofu everywhere in Taiwan and in many different varieties.Tofu originated in China over 2000 years ago and today serves as one of the most popular basic foods in Taiwan. It also serves a crucial nutritional role in the life of most Taiwanese, which is good news for vegetarians. There are so many different types of tofu here, that you probably could never try them all in one trip.
4. As Taiwan is located in a subtropical region you will find many varieties of fruits and vegetables available throughout the year. In summer especially, Taiwan produces many fruits; pineapples, mangoes, apples, and pears to name a few. The Taiwanese also love mushrooms and you will find numerous types in supermarkets, as well as a daunting display of unusual greens. (Bok choy, Chinese broccoli, Water spinach, Fava greens, Seaweed and many more).
5. Taiwan loves streetfood, and you will find vegetarian options in the open air markets. Some popular choices are:
- Vegetable steamed buns (made from rice), are soft, puffy and delicious filled with cabbage, leek, carrot, mushroom, corn or a combination of these.
- Freshly made vegetarian dumplings, filled with fresh cabbage and cellophane noodles, they are juicy and extremely moreish.
- Spicy fried tofu on a stick, can be found at most chip and dip stores.
- Stinky tofu, which is a delicacy here and easy to find if you follow the pungent smell (it is not for everyone).
- Barbecued corn on the cob, hot off the grill and with or without a sauce or spice.
- Baked yams, can even be found at seven-elevens.
- Fried mushroom on a stick, pretty self explanatory.
- Taiwanese vegetarian burritos, vegetables in a sweet peanut sauce wrapped in a burrito. Remember to ask for the vegetarian option.
6. The Restaurants. Taipei’s vegetarian restaurants tend to belong to one of two groups: The buffet (usually pay by weight) and the ‘mom and pop’ places found on most streets. In Taipei, you will find a number of upper market vegetarian eateries as well. Just look for the Chinese characters 素食 indicating vegetarian food or the Buddhist swastika. 我吃素.
- The Buffett - Take a tray, if you are eating in, or box, for takeout, and fill it with various foods set out on tables. The total cost usually is based on weight.
- A few popular vegetarian restaurants in Taipei :
This is an east meets west fusion restaurant.
Delicious made-to-order meals. You simply select your ingredients and bring them to the chef who will make you a dish.
Serves up fusion food in a European atmosphere including raw vegan desserts!
One of Taipei’s swankiest veg restaurants.
For more check out these links.
- I am a vegetarian. 我吃素Wǒ chī sù.
- I’m a vegan. 我是純素食者Wǒ shì chún sùshízhě.
- (Buddhist vegans don't eat onions, spring onions, garlic and cooking wine.)
- I cannot eat meat. 我不吃肉Wǒ bùchī ròu.
- I cannot eat seafood. 我不吃海鮮Wǒ bùchī hǎixiān.
- Please don’t add MSG. 請不要放味精 Qǐng bùyào fàng wèijīng.
- I cannot eat eggs. 我不吃蛋Wǒ bùchī dàn.
- I can eat eggs. 我可以吃蛋 Wǒ kěyǐ chī dàn.
- I can eat onions and garlic. 我可以吃蔥和大蒜 Wǒ kěyǐ chī cōng hé dàsuàn
- I cannot eat dairy products. 我不吃乳製品 Wǒ bùchī rǔzhì pǐn
- I can eat dairy products. 我可以吃乳製品 Wǒ kěyǐ chī rǔzhì pǐn
- vegetarian restaurant素食餐廳 sùshí cāntīng
- organic food 有機食品 yǒujī shí pǐn