I landed in Taipei convinced I would spend a few days there before moving on to visit other cities on the island, but instead spent a full two weeks planted firmly in one place. The city offers so much, both in terms of activities and food, and I felt drawn to stay and enjoy as much as I could in the time I had. This post might seem extensive, but still doesn't begin to cover how much food I consumed in that glorious city.
A local man told me many of the vegetarian spots in Taipei were opened by American born Chinese, which explains the expansive selection of Western inspired food options, but Taipei is incredibly vegetarian friendly and houses hundreds of local veggie hole in the wall spots featuring Taiwanese cuisine as well.
Tucked into the back corner of a university courtyard, Joy Bar serves inexpensive vegan grub from Japanese style curries to sandwiches. There was no English menu at the time I visited, but someone took fifteen minutes to explain everything and told me they would work on a written translation.
For burgers (faux meat with different flavours, like Japanese curry) come earlier in the day. Hot dogs are also an option. Noodles, dumplings, curry rice, and open faced toasts feature. There are loads of teas and fruit drinks, plus coffee. All of their bagels (onion, corn and olive, blueberry, matcha, and chocolate matcha, to name a few) are handmade.
Joy Bar is not straightforward to find. Enter the university from Jinan road and go left around the corner once you enter the open university square. It isn’t obviously vegan, but it’s the only place around so it isn't to be confused with anywhere else.
Ooh Cha Cha
When I asked for something sweet, the guy from Joy Bar gave me directions to Ooh Cha Cha, an American food inspired (like many vegan eateries in Taipei) cafe. Think wholesome sandwiches, bowls, and raw desserts.
I had a slice of the matcha green tea pie and it was not gross like some raw desserts I’ve had before that tasted like a grass clippings. Their pie was cold and rich, perfect with a glass of steaming oolong.
Guang Fu Loving Hut
This branch of Loving Hut is hotpot central, so if you want to celebrate life by splashing boiling broth all over your face then this restaurant is a must. The tables double as hobs, so you manage the heat and cook vegetables and noodles as you eat. If you leave without stains on your clothes I will send you a prize (of probably a stained t-shirt).
Huai Ning Loving Hut
The closest branch of Loving Hut to Taipei Main Station, this is convenient before or after trips out of town or if you are visiting the peace park. The food is nothing out of this world, but it's tasty and it fills a hole. Try the dumpling noodle soup.
Formosa Vintage Cafe
Not a place for food, but one of the more interesting spots to have a coffee (they have soy milk) and have your attention constantly diverted by the endless collection of knick knacks gathered by ex-dentist collector Lin Yu-fang.
My favourite piece is the Ajinomoto MSG poster (I am will defend monosodium glutamate until the day I die, or at least until the day any real science proves there is anything bad about it).
Yummy Vegan House
Noodles are big on the menu at Yummy Vegan House, a cute and peaceful little eatery not far from Beitou and Xinbeitou MRT stations. I ordered the Chinese cheese ramen, a mild noodle soup featuring fermented bean curd.
This mostly Taiwanese and Chinese cafe is a good option if you're planning a day trip to the nearby Beitou hot springs. Have lunch, then go soak in some hot baths, dunk in some cold baths, die a little because why would you do that, and then eat some more ramen to bring you back to life.
I mostly avoid comfort junk food I can get at home when I travel, so the last thing I seek when I'm away, especially in Asia, is a burger. I was in the area of About Animals, however, and starving, so popped in for a burger and a beer.
And by 'starving' I mean I had eaten an hour prior and really just wanted a beer but ordered a burger because once I was in there it just looked so sodding good. And it was, even with the unusual side of raw plum tomatoes and orange slices.
Vege Creek was recommended to me by a few different people, and with good reason. The concept at this mellow restaurant is simple: collect a shopping basket and pile in your preferred ingredients, pay, and wait for your bowl to arrive at the shared table space.
Ingredients include an array of vegetables, different styles of tofu, mushrooms, and a choice of several types of noodle.
Hoshina is a Japanese udon restaurant that is vegetarian with several vegan options. The atmosphere is busy but comfortable, and there’s space for solo diners to sit without feeling as if they are awkwardly taking up too much space. Staff are friendly and accommodating, and service is speedy.
The udon was simple as good udon should be, served in a clear kombu dashi broth. The cabbage roll was my favourite – age tofu wrapped with cabbage leaves and steamed, served in a salty cabbage and carrot broth. Goma dofu, a Japanese sesame tofu made with kudzu starch, was made with black sesame and drizzled with a salty sweet sauce that was almost fruity. The whole meal was refreshing and balanced.
Shuiwen is an all vegetarian kaiten sushi restaurant, the conveyor belt sort where you select your dishes as they pass. As of November 2014, all plates cost about 50 pence. Plates are colour coded, where all green plates are vegan, yellow have egg, white have dairy, and red include dairy and egg. There are dozens of options, but don’t go near closing time when they stop sending out new items and you are left with the scraps no one else wanted.
Already blown away by everything I tried, and a little sad for the lack of natto, I decided to try some of the additional cooked menu items that had to be requested. What I expected was spring rolls. What I got was a parcel filled with chau dofu (stinky tofu) and sweet pickled cabbage, which more than made up for the lack of natto. I wish the Taiwanese speciality that is stinky tofu could be found in London because it is magic in your face.
Songshan Dunhua Road Loving Hut
If you want to try some chou doufu (Taiwanese stinky fermented tofu) that you can guarantee is vegan friendly (often it is fermented with animal by products) then this tiny branch of Loving Hut is a great starting point.
Smells like nappies, tastes like heaven.
Last, but not least, Taipei's 100% vegan supermarket. iVegan blows every other vegan grocery store I've visited out of the water because it's more than hey look a bunch of junk. It's a fully functioning supermarket shop that includes everything from fresh produce to toiletries, kitchenware to snacks, fresh baked breads to frozen ready meals. Unfortunately I blurred every photo I took, probably due to shaking with excitement, so here's a blurry video instead.
The store soundtrack is a mixture of children's dance music and religious tunes.
This is the place to hit for vegan souvenirs, and by that I mean a boatload of vegan candy you intend to bring back for friends but eat by yourself in one go back in your dorm bed. Sorry everyone.