In addition to being super beautiful for a living, my best friend Lindy (who moved here from San Francisco a while ago) has been living the vegetarian life going on four years now – and being
essentially her boyfriend around her all the time means that I hardly eat meat anymore, and essentially am a vegetarian as well.
So I thought that it’d be apt to conduct a little interview and guide showing the places you’d want to go if you’re thinking of
stalking her eating vegetarian.
What inspired you to stop eating meat?
“I became vegetarian at 20 years old – I say it’s because of this bunny that I owned. It just had so much personality and character, it shocked me. I realised that if people eat them, then I was mistaken about other animals as well. I’ve been vegetarian for over four years now.”
Would you say that it’s harder to be vegetarian in Taiwan in comparison to the States?
Yes and no. In Taiwan, Buddhism and Taosim is prevalent – and many Buddhists/Taoists eat vegetarian for religious reasons. However, the type of vegetarianism is different; more strict: no onions, no garlic, no dairy. And so many local restaurant owners think that if you can eat onions and garlic, you can also eat meat – even if you clearly tell them that you don’t eat meat. They also will assume that you can eat fish or other kinds seafood. It can be frustrating, but honestly, I’m of the mind that anyone can be vegetarian anywhere, so it doesn’t really matter.
The new buzz in Taipei’s dining scene has centered around highlighting the abundance of Taiwan’s excellent produce and fruits. What do you think of the quality of produce in Taiwan?
The produce is really good, in my opinion. The fruit can be expensive, but compared to the States is way better, in both quality and variety. The local wet markets are a good place to buy produce -they’re open almost every single day in the morning. It’s so cheap, way better than buying from Wellcome or the other grocery chains. I only go to those when I’m feeling lazy and I’ve missed the market times.
Let’s get into eating out as a vegetarian in Taipei. Is the selection quite limited?
In the States, being vegetarian has been trendy for a while, so there are tons of spots and cool places to go if you’re wanting to avoid eating meat. But I would say that it’s definitely up and coming here in Taipei – Western-style vegetarian spots are opening up everywhere. Even eating vegan is starting to become trendy – there’s even been a fine dining vegan concept (NAKEDFOOD), although I haven’t been to check it out yet. I think that the influx of Western-style vegetarian restaurants and cafes is largely due to outside influence: many ABCs and foreigners are bringing back the trends from the States. There has always been a robust vegetarian scene in terms of Chinese cuisine – mainly catering to Buddhists/Taoists. I like how for them, it’s part of an entire lifestyle – it’s the same for me – I stick with it, even when it makes things difficult or awkward. It’s fine that to some people eating vegetarian is only a trend; it means that there are more of Western-style vegetarian and vegan places opening, which makes things better for me. I’m curious to see if the local Taiwanese young people will soon be flocking to the vegan cafes as well.
Quick Lunch / Every-day Eating
“These places are all under 200 NT, and have multiple locations around the city, which makes them the ideal place to grab a lunch on-the-go.”
• Minder Vegetarian – Super cheap vegetarian and vegan buffets. They have them at every Eslite.
• Saladay – They have pre-packaged salads, so I can take them to go.
Roasted Vegetable Salad c/o Saladay
• 7-11 / FamilyMart – in the frozen section of the convenience stores – they have a couple of packaged meals that you can pop in the microwave; they are super filling and cost around 50 NTD.
Lunch or Dinner Date
“These places range from 250 – 500 NT, which puts them above the range of an every-day meal, but they’re nice places to brunch, or to meet with friends for a casual dinner.”
• MissGreen: I like this place because it’s casual and all-vegan. The style is more Western: burgers, quinoa salads, wraps. When I go I usually get the curry wrap and the falafel burger. They have amazing shakes and juices as well.
Roasted quinoa salad, c/o @missgreentpe
• Herban Kitchen & Bar: It’s more geared towards meat eaters who want to take a break from eating meat, so the food can be very heavy. Their pastas are so good: Spicy Thai pasta; pink sauce. It’s an ideal place for brunch.
• Mia Cucina: The salads here so huge – they cost between 400 – 500 NT, but you can split with a friend and it doesn’t end up being that expensive. Their original location is in Tienmu, but I usually go to the one near Zhongxiao Fuxing.
– Tianmu: No. 48, Dexing W. Rd, Shilin (士林區德行西路48號)
– Fuxing: No. 11 Ln. 107 Fuxing S. Rd, Daan (大安區復興南路一段107巷11號)
– Neihu: No. 601 Reiguang Rd, Neihu (內湖區瑞光路601號)
Cold sesame noodles, c/o @TaipeiEats
• The Tonghua night market has some great vegetarian options – I feel that most night markets would offer similar things. Best snack: fried oyster mushroom. At Tonghua there’s a vegan gua-bao stall and a spot that sells vegetarian braised noodles as well. The night market can be surprisingly vegetarian friendly – you just have to keep your eyes peeled.
• Of course, many local joints can be vegetarian-friendly: cold sesame noodles, tofu (as long as it isn’t cooked with meat), vegetarian dumplings, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Editor’s Note: I’ve recently stumbled upon Carrie Davies’ blog Dinner.TW, which is an excellent resource for local vegetarian restaurants (many catering to Buddhist/Taoists). Some of my favorites below (that I’ll be dragging Lindy to go try):
• Mama Qiu’s Vegetarian Restaurant 釋道速食賓館邱媽媽素食專賣店: “Cheap, authentic and vegan Taiwanese soul food near Guanghua Digital Plaza”
• San Lai Vegetarian Restaurant 三來素食館: Famous vegetarian smorgasbord in Ximen with 60+ dishes to choose from
• Like Lotus Vegetarian Hot Pot 若荷蔬食火鍋: Meat-free hot pot buffet in a classy Zen tea-house setting near Zhongxiao Fuxing