Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Taipei's Best Vegan Restaurants

Updated August, 2018

 

Restaurants by Category

Best Restaurant

Others

Best Overall 

Tofunia ($$), Flourish ($$$)

Blossom Rena ($$$)
Best Taiwanese Guangfu Loving Hut ($$$) Taiwan Su ($)
Best fusion food Flourish ($$$)
Blossom Rena ($$$)

Tofunia ($$)

Best boutique restaurant Mianto ($$$) SoulR ($$$)
Best Western comfort food Tofunia ($$)
Ooh Cha Cha ($$),
Mianto ($$$)
Herbivore ($$$)
Best dining experience SoulR ($$$) Mianto ($$$)
Best raw food
Also see page:
Raw Vegan Food in Taipei
Plants Eatery ($$$) Ooh Cha Cha ($$)
serves raw desserts. 
Best buffet (not all vegan) Fruitful Food ($$$)
Best Japanese / Korean Hoshina Teishoku ($$)
Tian Zhuan Zhai Loving Hut ($$)
Flourish ($$$)
Best burgers Tofunia ($$) Ooh Cha Cha ($$)
Best pizza Tofunia ($$) Mianto ($$$)
Also see restaurants I recommend vegans avoid


$ = A basic meal can be had for around (or under) NT100$$ = A typical meal costs between NT100 - NT400
$$$ = A meal costs over NT400

All these restaurants are vegan except for Fruitful Food, where vegan items are clearly labelled.

As most vegan (and vegetarian) restaurants in Taiwan are run by spiritually-minded people (or cater to them) most do not serve alcohol. Restaurants do not serve alcohol unless stated otherwise, but many offer non-alcoholic beer and other beverages.


Tofunia ($$, Fusion)


Xinyi Anhe Station, Exit 3 (turn right) or Exit 4 (turn left) into Tongan Street. After 250 metres turn left into Lane 38, Tonghua Street.
11:00 – 21:00 (Please call first, or if closed irregularly walk to The Green Room.)
09 0566-5565 (mobile) or (02) 2755-7380
Number 19, Lane 38, Tonghua St, Da’an District
臺北市大安區通化街38巷19號
Facebook


With generous layers of fresh vegetables and vegan cheese, Tofunia makes the best pizzas in Taipei, and they are surprisingly inexpensive for such quality, Western food.

Tofunia is one of the newest fusion restaurants in Taipei. This charming, two-story establishment, run by a European chef, serves authentic Western favourites at surprisingly low prices, especially for this expensive area of Taipei (near Xinyi Anhe Station). If you're looking to enjoy a delicious, healthy meal out on a low budget - or even if you're not on a tight budget - then this restaurant is a top choice. Their desserts are also amazing - try the ice cream if it's on the menu. In my humble opinion is Taipei's best-value restaurant, and with its wide menu, its healthy and delicious food, and such good value, Tofunia is my favourite restaurant in Taipei.

If it's closed: Most of Taipei's best restaurants are within walking distance or a short MRT ride of here.

Flourish ($$$, Fusion)


11:00 – 21:00
Reservations are recommended. A few minutes' walk from Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, Exit 4. Make a U-turn as you walk out the exit, turn right immediately into Lane 170, and then take the second left (just after the post office). Flourish will be on your right.
Directions from your location
Facebook
台北市大安區敦化南路一段巷32號
Number 32, Lane 233, Section 1, Dunhua South Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City.
Ma Po Tofu is usually difficult to find vegan, let alone as healthy as this.

Flourish is one of the newest and most popular vegan restaurants in Taipei. It offers a delicious range of Western, Taiwanese and Japanese-inspired dishes which are among the best value fine food in Taipei. It's also one of the few restaurants open between lunch and dinner (and until 21:00) so I recommend reserving in advance (via Facebook) or else turning up between lunch and dinner, or after about 19:00. The interior is large and crowded, and service is prompt and efficient. While the whole dining experience is very enjoyable, food is the focus, not service, decor or atmosphere. While much of the menu is Taiwanese and Western, the food and style here is most like Japanese macrobiotic food of any restaurant in Japan, so if you will be entertaining Japanese who would like a taste of home them this is the place to come.

Least expensive meal set: NT300
Meal set, dessert & drink: NT700 - 1000




Hoshina Teishoku (穗科食堂, $$, Japanese)

12:00-21:30 (every day)
A few minutes' walk from Zhongshan Station, Exit 4. Make a U-turn as you exit the MRT, and then take the first right (into Lane 16, Section 2, Zhongshan North Road) and Hoshina will be on your left after 40 metres.
Directions from your location
Facebook
中山區中山北路二段16巷21號
Number 21, Lane 16, Section 2, Zhongshan North Road, Zhongshan District.

Set meals at Hoshina are particularly good value.

The only vegan branch of this popular chain serves the most authentic ramen (Japanese noodles) in Taipei, if not all of Taiwan. And it's conveniently located around Zhongshan, Taipei's most Japanese district. It also serves a few Taiwanese variants, including Ma Po Tofu, beautifully presented with Japanese simplicity.


Blossom Rena ($$, International Fusion Cuisine)

 Tue - Sun 11:30 – 21:00, closed Monday
Seven minutes' walk from Minquan West Road Station, Exit 10.Continue walking East along Minquan West Road, and then turn left into Section 3, Zhongshan North Road
Chinese name : 貝多蕾納
Directions from your location
Facebook
中山北路三段26-1號Number 26-1, Section 3, Zhongshan North Road, Taipei City.




Anyone who's been around Taiwan for as long as I have will remember Sophie's Garden, which when it opened about eight years ago was the first fully-vegan restaurant in Taiwan. Blosson Rena is run by the same owner, with the same great chef, but the restaurant has moved to a much more central location, and now offers the same great (and expensive) meal sets it used to, but also delicious, moderately-priced snack food, making it great for between meals. Unlike Sophie's Garden, some dishes at Blosson Rena contain onion and garlic; this change reflects the growth of the younger, non-religious vegan community in Taipei, as most of the clientele at Sophie's were Buddhist (and thus didn't eat the Buddhist five pungents).


Ooh Cha Cha ($$, Western, Sandwiches, Bowls & Burgers)

Ooh Cha Cha Guting
Guting Station, Exit 2
Walk straight as you exit, take your first right and it's on the right when you reach the first corner (one minute from the station).
Number 207, Section 2, Nanchang Road
台北市南昌路二段207
Directions
Mon – Fri: 10:00 – 21:00
Sat–Sun: 10:00 – 20:00
(02) 2367-7133
Vegan Taiwan, Facebook

Ooh Cha Cha Tech (Cafe) / Hooch (Bar)
和平東路二段118巷4號之1
Heping East Road, Section 2, Lane 118, Number 4.
Directions
 (02) 2737-2994 (English speaking staff available)

Cafe / Restaurant: Open from 11:30; when the restaurant closes food is available from the bar downstairs.
Hooch (bar): 17:00 - Midnight

Facebook
Ooh Cha Cha is the place to come for a quick healthy recharge.

Ooh Cha Cha is one of Taipei's most famous cafes, and deservedly so, for it's been serving up simple, delicious, healthy vegan meals for years, including Taipei's best sandwiches and meal bowls. Its menu has also expanded into burgers and raw desserts.

However, there's a catch with Ooh Cha Cha, which makes it disappoint a few visitors: it's what you probably get at home (if you're lucky enough to live in a vegan-friendly city), and if you're a good chef you probably can and do cook similar food yourself. Its simple, healthy meals make it a perfect go-to cafe for resident vegans looking for a healthier alternative to the usual overcooked veggies and fake meat, drowned with salty, MSG-laden sauces, and for this it deserves its fame among health-conscious, foreign residents. However, visiting vegans often find it on Happycow (usually while visiting the nearby Dictator Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall) and turn up expecting more than a sandwich (no matter how good the handmade sauces are). If you're in Taiwan for a short time please with limited meals to enjoy please try Taiwanese food (like the Guangfu Loving Hut), but if you want a taste of home then here's the place to come for the best Quinoa bowl in Taiwan. Ooh Cha Cha also serves vegan beer. 

The menu at Ooh Cha Cha Tech is slightly more international, while Hooch serves vegan pub food.


Ooh Cha Cha have recently opened Ooh Cha Cha Tech, a new branch in Eastern Taipei. For most short-term visitors to Taiwan (who make up most readers of this blog) this branch is much more convenient, however the new branch includes Hooch, a bar downstairs, which is open until midnight, making it a great option for a late meal. While the bar menu is not yet finalised and is likely to be simpler and less healthy than the menu in the restaurant upstairs, the bar menu so far includes nachos and paninis. So if you need a late meal, or somewhere to while away the night playing games (available) then head to Hooch.


Guangfu Loving Hut ($$, Hotpot)

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station, Exit 2Continue south as you exit the MRT. Cross the roundabout (circle). Take the second right (Lane 280, Guangfu South Road) and it's a few buildings down on the right.
Directions from your location
11:30 – 14:30, 16:30 - 21:30 (last order 21:00)
台北市大安區光復南路280巷30號
Guangfu South Road, Lane 280, Number 30
(02) 2777-2711 (Call to reserve a table during weekends.)
Facebook, Happycow, Vegan Taiwan

Hotpots are the Guangfu Loving Hut Staple, and the best place to enjoy this quintessential Asian dining experience in Taiwan.

Hotpots are a popular North-East Asian cuisine in which the diner is served a plate of raw vegetables and tofu (and traditionally meat - fake meat here of course) and cooks them at their table. Most broths traditionally, of course, contain animal products, but the Guangfu Loving Hut makes its own vegan versions, and some new creations of its own. It's a good place to try Ma La (spicy) sauce, a popular flavour from SiChuan in China, and also some more Western-inspired broths. 
This Loving Hut is very different from most other Loving Huts, most of which serve simple "comfort food" aimed at non-vegan Taiwanese. This branch also serves a few staple fusion dishes (I recommend the Tom Yam Tahini Rice) and some rich desserts. This is the most authentic restaurant among Taipei's high-end vegan restaurants.

Price range: NT200 - NT600

If you can't get a table: the original branch of Veggie Creek (and the only branch not inside a shopping mall) is a short walk away, but you might not get a seat there either. 


Plants Eatery ($$$, Raw)


450 metres north of Daan Station, Exit 6 (not to be confused with Daan Park Station). Continue walking north for five minutes, then turn right into Lane 253 and it’s on the right in 50 metres (at the first corner).
700 metres south of Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, Exit 3. Do a U-turn after walking out the exit and then at the intersection turn left into Fuxing South Road, Section 1. Walk south for 8 minutes then turn left again into Lane 253 and it’s on the right in 50 metres (at the first corner).
Tue-Fri 11:30-21:30, Sat-Sun: 10:00-21:30, closed Monday
大安區復興南路一段25310
Fuxing South Road, Section 1, Lane 253, Number 10
(02) 2784-5677  
Vegan Taiwan,Website, Facebook

Taipei's best dessert - rich and filling, but raw and healthy (about NT200).

Taipei's only fully-vegan raw food vegan restaurant, Plants is most famous for its desserts, but also serves sprouted grain-based dishes, hummus and other raw favourites found the world over. Raw food requires quality ingredients and is time-intensive to prepare, so it's never going to be cheap, but the price to quality ratio is much higher than the same restaurant would offer in London, New York or Melbourne. A delicious, healthy, raw meal, with a drink, main and dessert, generally costs between NT500 - 1000, expensive for a meal in Taipei but great value for what is one of the healthiest meals one can eat in Taipei. 

Plants also run a smaller branch (Canteen by Plants) conveniently located near Taipei Main Station. For more information please see my pages on Plants Eatery or Raw vegan restaurants in Taipei.

 

SoulR Vegan Cuisine ($$$, Fusion)


Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, Exit 1
Mon – Wed: 14:30 – 21:00, Thu – Sun: 11:30–21:00 (Last Order 8:10)
Continue walking west as you leave the MRT. Take the fourth road on the right (Lane 217) and then the first left (not counting a tiny alley) into Alley 1 (at the 7-Eleven). The restaurant is on the right.
忠孝東路321716
Zhongxiao East Road, Section 3, Lane 217, Alley 1, Number 6. See Eastern Taipei Map.
(02) 2771-1365
Thai Pasta

SoulR offers Taipei's finest vegan dining experience, serving exquisitely presented Taiwanese fusion cuisine on to a small number of tables in a comfortable (if somewhat dark), exclusive restaurant atmosphere. Specialties are pasta (with some unique flavours, including Thai and Mexican sauces), but they are most famous for their rich desserts (visit in the afternoon for their waffles).

Personally I value originality of food over dining atmosphere, so if I'm going to spend several hundred NT on a meal I look for the more original fare found at the likes of Flourish or Mianto, but SoulR is undoubtedly one of Taipei's most popular vegan establishments, among residents (both Taiwanese and foreign) and among visitors to Taipei, and (like About Animals) many readers of my book report that it was their favourite in Taiwan.

Price range: NT400 - NT1200+ (steak dinner set).
If it's closed: Flourish and Fruitful Food are in similar price brackets, or if all else fails Veggie Creek Dunan Store is always open.

Note: In late 2017 SoulR began posting photos of designer handbags,  made of real leather, advertising them for sale with a vegan hashtag. There was much confusion about why, but it appears its owners do not really understand veganism, however the consensus among Taipei vegans is that the menu here is completely vegan.

Vegan Taipei ($$, Indian, International)

Daan Station, Exit 4    
Turn left as you exit, take the first left into Fuxing South Road, Section 2, walk 400 metres, then turn right into Rui An Street, and Fresh Bakery will be on your left in 120 metres.
Directions
Mon – Sun 10:30 – 20:00
(02) 2703 2180
台北市大安區瑞安街130號
Da’an District, Rui An Street, Number 130
Facebook


Taipei's only Calzone (NT270)

This new vegan restaurant is actually a Version 2.0 of the former Fresh bakery, Taipei's first vegan bakery which quickly became famous for its cakes and other baked delights. While a limited range of these are still on offer, it has stopped producing its breads and pastries, however that niche has now been filled by the new Hip Pun Bakery.

Like its former life as a bakery, Vegan Taipei aims to serve healthy, affordable vegan food to large numbers.It serves mostly Western meals, particularly pasta and pizza. It also serves some Indian curries, which (having an Indian owner / chef) are as Indian as they can possibly be without onion or garlic (to appeal to the large Buddhist community).

Dishes are small but excellent quality; expect around two dishes or NT500 for a filling meal.


Mianto ($$$, Fusion, Boutique)


Tue – Sun 11:00 - 21:00
(02) 2321-9749
新生南路一段146 7
Xinsheng South Road, Section 1, Lane 146, Number 7
Macaroni Cheese

Mianto is Taipei's boutique vegan restaurant. It serves a delicious range of healthy, authentic, vegan cuisine, and Michelle (the owner / chef) is a great host. Diners mostly eat at one large table, but there are also a few small corner tables (for two) overlooking a small park. The warm and pleasant interior also shares its space with a design company. Michelle also makes some incredible baked desserts.

Food prepared individually, or for such small numbers, is inevitably more expensive than its equivalent at a large, busy restaurant, so expect to spend up to NT1000, but if you're looking for a more personal dining experience then Mianto is the place to come.

Price range: NT300 - 1000+

If it's closed: there's not much else around here; take the Tamsui (red line) to Xinyi Anhe Station for Tofunia ($$, fusion) or further for the Tian Zhuan Zhai Loving Hut (Korean, Japanese).


Tian Zhuan Zhai Loving Hut ($$, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese) 

11:30 - 14:00, 17:00 – 20:30
 247 Songde Road
信義區松德路247號 500 metres East of Xiangshan Station, Exit 3
Directions
From Exit 3 continue walking East along the left hand side of Xinyi Road, Section 5, around a gentle turn to the left. The first major intersection is Songde Road (松德路Eastern Taipei
Map.  

This Loving Hut lies somewhere in between the fine-dining Guangfu branch (see above) and the traditional, inexpensive Loving Huts found elsewhere in Taiwan and around the world. This branch, which is run by a multilingual Korean lady and her family, serves Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese favourites, and is often overlooked because it's a little further out than other restaurants but only a few minutes walk from Xiangshan Station (the last stop on the red line, one station after Taipei 101). I recommend this to anyone wanting to try Japanese or Korean food or a good, inexpensive meal out.

If it's closed: take the red Tamsui line back to any restaurant in Eastern Taipei. Consider a stop to pick up a bite to eat at Vegan Heaven on the way (writeup coming soon). 



Veggie Creek ($$, Taiwanese)


500 metres northwest of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station, Exit 1
Yanji Street, Lane 129, Number 2
大安區延吉街1292
(02) 2778-1969
12:00 – 14:00, 17:00 – 21:00

This popular chain applies a traditional Taiwanese concept found in street food and at expensive buffets (such as Fruitful Food - see below) to a vegan store. Diners choose their own fresh vegetables, tofu and fake meats from a rack, and then the talented chef whips boils them in a traditional broth and then whips them up into a one-pot wonder in minutes. The original store, which offers the best dining experience, was started by two young (non-vegan) men after they returned to Taiwan from working holidays in Australia, and they have since opened two new stores, one in the Dunan branch of the Eslite Bookstore (famous for being open 24 hours, but the foodcourt closes around 21:00) and the Song Gao branch in the Breeze Shopping Centre, close to Taipei 101.While Veggie Creek has lost its edge since the opening of so many other vegan restaurants in eastern Taipei, it's still a unique dining opportunity and an inexpensive meal - something which makes it enormously popular with residents and visitors.

Typical meal (charged by item): NT200-300
If it's closed: The branches in the shopping malls shouldn't be, except on the eve of Lunar New Year and during serious typhoons.


 Fruitful Food ($$$, Buffet, Vegetarian)

Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, Exit 3
Directions
Walk out and around to the right, and take the elevator straight from the street to the 12th floor. Weekdays (preferable): Lunch: 11:30 - 15:00 (NT600), Dinner: 17:30 - 21:30 (NT700) Weekends, Holidays (must reserve ahead): Lunch: 11:30 - 14:00 (NT600), Afternoon Tea (limited menu): 14:20 - 16:20 (NT500), Dinner: 17:30 - 21:30 (NT700).
台北市忠孝東路四段200號12F(明曜百貨)
12th Floor, Mingyue Department Store, Number 200, Zhongxiao East Road.
(02) 277-18832
Vegan Taiwan, Website

While most buffets in Taiwan are inexpensive, pay-by-weight affairs, Buddhists have for years run elaborate, all-you-can-eat buffets, offering diners dozens of dishes to choose from for NT500 to NT1000 per person. Most, unfortunately, serve a lot of dairy products and fake meats (which most Taiwanese expect when they pay a lot for a meal) and as service is minimum at most there's no way to tell what's vegan, making the whole process very frustrating for vegan diners. Fruitful Food, however, have a clear labelling system and a large array of vegan options, including (usually) Japanese and Western food, cakes and sorbet. I still, however, recommend avoiding all fake meat products, as at any non-vegan restaurant. As a popular spot for wedding feasts and other large gatherings, it's often booked out days if not weeks in advance, but it's usually possible to turn up on a weekday lunch without a reservation, which is what I recommend.

Price range:  NT600 (afternoon tea, with a limited buffet) - NT800 (dinner).

If you can't get a seat: Flourish or the fail-safe Veggie Creek Dunan Store (inside the Eslite Bookstore, so virtually always open).

Beyond Food: A Travel Guide for Vegans

The format used here is the same system as in my guidebook, Taiwan, a Travel Guide for Vegans. It  shares this same information (and more), but focuses more on sights and activities, travel practicalities (transport, safety etc), culture, history, and how to plan your trip around weather, crowds and opening hours - basically just just like any other guidebook, except that it is all written from a vegan perspective. It better resembles conventional travel guides (eg Lonely Planet, Rough Guide) than most "vegan guides" (which focus just on food), however of course my guidebook only recommends vegan-friendly restaurants and animal- and earth-friendly entertainment and activities.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Taipei Most Vegan City in Asia

Peta has come out with its "Most Vegan-Friendly Cities in Asia list, and Taipei is at the top." When I first arrived in Taiwan ten years ago there were NO vegan restaurants (and not many good vegetarian restaurants either), and it's been immensely rewarding to see so many new restaurants arrive on the scene, and transform Taipei from somewhere that a good meal started in the kitchen to one in which vegans are spoiled for choice, especially given how affordable food is here.
Ooh Cha Cha deservedly gets the first mention.

Taipei's place at the top features in today's Taipei Times (Jan 14th).

Finding great vegan food in Taipei (and most other Taiwanese cities) is certainly easy, both for residents and visitors alike, and it's wonderful to have so much choice: from Taipei Main Station it's a short walk or subway ride to reach Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese or Western foods, from restaurants spanning the continuim from from botique, fine-dining establishments (so much less expensive than restaurants in other veg capitals) to night markets, and everything in between. Taipei is a vegan foodie heaven.

While this list was for cities, it's also worth mentioning that with such universal respect for vegetarianism (and increasingly for veganism, as the vegan population continues to grow exponentially) Taiwan is arguably the most vegan-friendly country in Asia, if not in the world. Even convenience stores sell vegan items, and it's easy to find them thanks to the world's most comprehensive vegetarian food labelling system. 

Vegan quesadilla from Tofunia, one of Taipei's newest and best vegan establishments.  

However, I have a confession to make: I disagree with Peta's findings. Taiwan is the vegan heart of Asia, but when it comes to cities, Kyoto takes the macrobiotic cake and the shojin ryori (Buddhist Japanese vegan cuisine) as the vegan capital of Asia. Being vegan in Japan is incredibly difficult, with virtually no understanding of even vegetarianism among the population, and few vegan restaurants outside the main centres or even snack foods at convenience stores. I suspect that it didn't even occur to the researchers to consider Japan for this list, and it's not hard to see why. However I've noticed a trend over the years: with a few notable exceptions, particularly the Tokyo Loving Hut and Ain Soph, most new vegan restaurants I have seen arrive on the scene in Japan have either closed their doors or moved to Kyoto, where the never-ending stream of tourists keeps them in business.  While this is unfortunate for the rest of Japan, and I really wish some woulde move to other cities, this makes Kyoto, in my opinion, the most vegan-friendly restaurant in Asia. I have a list of some of the restaurants there on my Vegan Restaurants in Kyoto page. 

Vegan Heaven, Kyoto

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Taiwan, A Travel Guide for Vegans

This article has been merged with this page: vegan travel guides to Taiwan.

Thank you very much.
 
Plants Eatery, Taipei

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Vegan Bake Sale

This Sunday (May 20th) Taiwan will participate in the Worldwide Vegan Bake with Its a Vegan Affair, kindly hosted by Grandma Nitti's Kitchen (中西美食餐廳) conveniently located in Shida. It's supported by various local vegan businesses, and proceeds will be donated to Animals Taiwan, who do TNR work for local stray animals, and Bright Side Projects, who do excellent community work (and all food they cook and donate is vegan).




Essentials
13:00-17:00
Number 8, Lane 93, Shida Road (Taipower  Building Station, Exit 3
台北市大安區師大路93巷8號




Saturday, 10 January 2015

Publication: A Vegan Travel Guide to Taiwan

What's a Vegan Travel Guide? 

While I continue to use this blog to offer free information about vegan food in Taiwan, I have taken the step of selling a travel guide to Taiwan, made especially for vegans. If you are just looking for information on vegan food, language and other survival information for vegans in Taiwan, then it's here on this blog (free) as it has been for the last decade. But if you would like a guidebook which also covers where to go and what to see in Taiwan, how to get around and stay safe, and to better understand the culture and history of this beautiful country, all written from a vegan perspective, for travelling vegans, then I invite you to consider a Vegan Travel Guide to Taiwan. This book has more in common with conventional travel guides (eg Lonely Planet, Rough Guide) than it does with most vegan guides, which usually only cover food. While there are plenty of vegan food guides to cities around the world, as far as I am aware this is the world's first travel guide written especially for vegans.

Why Do I Charge for These? 

While I have enjoyed giving away information on this blog free for a decade, these books are the result of several months off work, including many weeks of 'on the road' research, and many more trips to keep it up-to-date, so it's necessary to charge a small amount. I am currently working on one for Japan, which has also required a large investment of time and money.

Latest Updates

This guide was last updated in November 2018, after the sad closure of several vegan restaurants, but also the opening of a vegan branch of Inaka Udon, a Japanese chain, right inside Songshan Cultural & Creative Park, one of Taipei's cultural hubs which I have been recommending to visitors since the first edition.  Other significant updates over the last few months include the opening of Hooch, a vegan bar attached to the famous Ooh Cha Cha, which is now the best option for a late meal in Taipei, perhaps after a trip up Maokong Gondola, or after a day trip along the historic Pingxi Railway Line (all covered in the guidebook). It also includes the new and very convenient branch of the (all-vegan) Veggie Creek chain inside Taipei 101 and opposite Taipei Main Station.

Why Might I Want One

Vegans & Vegetarians Travel Differently

Vegan Travel Guides are written with the philosophy that vegans shouldn't need to put up with guidebooks which recommend zoos, steakhouses and dolphinariums, or to spend hours of time on research to plan how to get the best attractions and vegan restaurants; with a Vegan Travel Guide your planning is done for you, by a resident vegan (in this case, me). Itineraries including both vegan restaurants and cruelty-free entertainment are set out for the traveller, so it's no longer necessary to choose between a hungry Lonely Planet walking tour or the best vegan restaurants from Happycow, nor is it necessary to spend hours trying to marry them up, at least for Taiwan.

Your Preparation is Done For You, by a Resident Vegan

Most vegans expect to plan their own itineraries using a conventional travel guide (or online resources such as TripAdvisor) and Happycow, so currently most vegans who travels to the same country re-invent the wheel (working out which restaurants to pair with which attractions) as best they can without local knowledge of their destination. Tech-savvy vegans who travel regularly usually become good at this, and some even enjoy it, but even the most tech-savvy traveler, with plenty of time on their hands, is unlikely to plan their travels as well as a resident vegan with local knowledge of the attractions, restaurants, weather, crowds and local culture. And many people work up until the day of their departure, and have to pack, so simply don't have the hours needed to plan their trip effectively; others are just happy to spend a few dollars to have a local expert do the research for them. So I wrote this book to share with travellers my own knowledge of Taiwan, as I have been visiting its attractions and eating at its restaurants for over a decade now. I have spent months carefully researching and documenting the most efficient itineraries for vegan (or vegetarian) travellers into what has become this guidebook.

Planning at a Glance





Overviews are provided for all outings and their restaurants, so the reader can plan their trip at a glance based on the days of the week and weather forecasts, and choose which restaurants to eat at based on cuisines, cost and convenience. This ensures that the visitor will reach both sights and restaurants at suitable times, when they are open, in the right weather conditions, and without encountering unbearable crowds, all of which frequently spoil visitors' travel experiences in Taiwan.

Buy or Download Free Sample


What's Covered in This Edition, and What's Not?

This first edition of Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans covers the best and most popular sights and attractions in the northern third or so of the island, and is intended as a complete guidebook for first-time visitors who will be here for up to around ten days. Readers have requested that it include the south of Taiwan, and I am currently working on adding Taichung, Changhua, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Sun Moon Lake, but this new edition is unfortunately still a few months away.

If you will be here for longer than ten days I recommend traveling around the whole island and perhaps visiting some outlying islands, for which an alternative guidebook or online resources will be required.

Any readers of the book (or my blog) are welcome to email me with further questions about areas not covered in this guidebook, or other matters related to travel and life in Taiwan.

Central & Southern Taipei

Due to their proximity to Taipei Main Station, these sights can be visited together or visited before any of the other three Taipei outings.
Sights
Restaurants

2-28 Massacre Memorial


Rice Revolution


Ooh Cha Cha (Guting Branch)
 2-28 Peace Park, 2-28 Peace Memorial Museum, National Taiwan Museum, Daan Forest Park, Ximen Ding, Longshan Temple, Presidential Palace, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall / Liberty Square, Botanical Gardens.
Rice Revolution, Minder Vegetarian, Ooh Cha Cha, Joy Bar, Mianto

 

Eastern Taipei

Sights
Restaurants

View from Elephant Mountain

Fruiful Food
Tian Zhuan Zhai Loving Hut
Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Maokong Gondola, Raohe Street Night Market
Loving Hut (hotpots, Taiwanese, Korean, buffet), Vege Creek, Minder Vegetarian, Fruitful Food, SoulR

Northern Taipei

Sights
Restaurants

Tamsui Waterfront

Lotus Vegetarian
Yummy Vegan House
National Palace Museum, Baoan Temple, Confucius Temple, Taipei Expo Park, Taipei Story House, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Guandu Temple, Guandu Nature Park, Neitou, Tamsui, Bali
Yummy Vegan House, Tamsui Waterfront Mushroom vendor, Easyhouse Vegetarian, Joufan Taro Balls


Southern Taipei

This itinerary is still included, however it is becomming less and less appealing as restaurants move from the area (or, sadly, close) and more options open up elsewhere in Taipei, especially in the east.

Sights
Restaurants

Bitan (Xindian River)
Green Pool Loving Hut

National Taiwan University, iVegan (supermarket), Bitan (lake), Cycle path, Wulai (hotsprings and Japanese history)
Green Pool Bitan (Green Pool) Loving Hut

Northeast Taiwan

Towns
Restaurants

Gold Ecological Park, Jinguashi







Jingtong (on Pingxi Railway)

Jingtong, Houtong Mine restaurant

Hualien and Taroko Gorge

This includes the only vegan B&B on the Taiwanese mainland (there's also another B&B on Penghu, not covered in this edition) and all necessary information to safely explore and stay in Taroko Gorge. 

Sights
Restaurants

Swallow Grotto

Chang Chun Buffet
Take-out for Taroko Gorge
Hualien: Ching Hsou (Japanese) Temple, Gang Tian Temple
Taroko Gorge: Eternal Springs Shrine & Trail, Shakadang Trail, Swallow Grotto, Lushui Trail, Tianxiang (sights and accommodation), Baiyang Waterfall trail
Hualien Loving Hut,  Zhu Pai Vegetarian (buffet), Chang Chun Vegetarian (buffet)


Lion Head Mountain

Changhua Tang Temple, Lion Head Mountain

This centuries-old Buddhist retreat is a little off the path of these itineraries, but is easily reached with public transport and makes a good final destination before flying out. It covers transport, accommodation at the temple hotel and food options en route from Taipei.

Practical Travel Information



Taiwan's High Speed Rail is a great way to travel between Taipei and Kaohsiung (not covered in this edition), but many travelers are surprised that stations are mostly so far away from city centres to make it useful for short-term visitors.

  • Preparation, packing and timing.
  • History, politics and religion (from a vegan perspective). This chapter is freely available as a sample on my blog here.
  •  Safety, costs, airports, getting around Taipei, luggage storage, languages, electricity, water, wireless internet, prepaid SIM cards, postal system & addresses, accommodation guide, public toilets.
  •  

Food and Restaurants


These common symbols make finding a vegetarian restaurant easy even for someone who has no background with the Chinese language.

Chinese symbols and language, chain restaurants (more in the complete guide, as they are less necessary in Taipei), Taiwanese specialty foods, fake meat (why it's not vegan, why everyone thinks it is and what to do about it). Most of this information is of course freely available on this blog, but it can help to have an offline version, and appropriate Chinese characters are interspersed throughout the book as necessary to make communication easier.


An Honest Note About Grammar and Readability

Taiwan (especially Taipei) is a dynamic scene for vegans, with restaurants opening and (sadly) closing almost by the week. This requires a lot of work on updates, but it also creates its own problems. For example, recently Joy Bar, Taipei's top student eatery, closed its doors, and I had recommended it in several places in the book for take-outs to the various itineraries covered in this book. To update it, I needed to search for all these links, and for each one, replace it with the next-best option for that itinerary.  Most guidebooks only update every year or two, but I usually release updates between once a fortnightly and once a month. I have been tempted to discontinue this guide, as keeping it updated is a lot of work for what is only a few sales a month, in a good month. But I really want to continue to share my knowledge of Taiwan with visitors, and I hope this project can grow into other countries.

So, as a compromise, I do keep it updated, but don't spend as long checking the final product as I ideally would. While I do check for readability and dead links, each edit affects the quality of the book slightly, yet I make these because I prioritise being up-to-date above all else. Eventually I intend to edit the whole book, but that is low on my priority list as I work on one for Japan.

So, to summarise, please understand that this is a utilitarian book, intended to provide the most up-to-date information as possible for the vegan visitor to Taiwan. Please excuse some grammatical or typing mistakes resulting from regular updates at this stage in the book's production. Thank you.


What's Not Covered (Yet)

Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung (including Kenting Beach) or the (very beautiful) central mountain range. If you have longer than ten days for Taiwan then I recommend purchasing a conventional guidebook and travelling around the island.

If these guidebooks are successful I intend to expand Taiwan, A Travel Guide for Vegans to include all these destinations, and hopefully other less well-known spots, such as B&Bs located on rural organic farms.

Reviews

Unlike most first-time publishers on Kindle, I didn't request any "sponsored" reviews, because I want the vegan community to judge the value of my work. I waited almost six months for my first book review, and am very grateful for this one.


My First Newspaper Review

Thank you to Han Cheung, journalist with the Taipei Times (Taiwan's best and most widely-read English-language newspaper) for this professional review: "Navigating the Vegan Heart of Asia". Mr Cheung's review is mostly positive with a few fair criticisms, mostly over the layout. He concludes that the book "gets the job done as a comprehensive tool for the visiting vegan".

Another Professional Review

Thank you very much to John Ross from Bookish Asia for another professional review. Bookish.Asia specialises in reviews of books about East Asia. In this fair and helpful review (helpful to potential readers, and to myself) John describes the book as "sure to be of great benefit to vegan and vegetarian visitors", and complements the author as being "not a blinkered cheerleader, and he doesn’t pull punches about the ugliness of the urban areas, or in dismissing restaurants not worth eating at", while rightly noting its limited coverage (northern Taiwan) and the spelling and grammatical mistakes, which are something I certainly need to improve on but especially struggle with given the regular updates to the book.


Who Are These Books For? 

These books are recommended for first-time, English-speaking travelers to Taiwan who will be here for up to two weeks. If you will have more than this I recommend purchasing another guidebook or using online travel resources, and traveling right around the whole island.

Residents?

New residents will probably find the book useful, however Taiwanese and long-term residents who speak some Chinese will not learn much new from this book.

Vegetarians?

Most of Taipei's vegan restaurants are among the most popular for vegetarians and vegans alike, especially foreigners, since they serve a more international cuisine than most traditional vegetarian restaurants and noodle stalls. A government survey in 2009 found that over half of several samples of fake meat contained real meat. This is (as far as I am aware) the only guide to deal with this problem, which of course affects vegetarians and vegans equally.
 Vegetarians may find this book preferable to a conventional guidebook, most of whose recommend restaurants serve little if anything vegetarian; even the Lonely Planet doesn't recommend any of Taipei's top vegetarian restaurants and it doesn't appear that they've even consulted Happycow listings in selecting their recommendations.

Most of my readers are vegetarian (not vegan), many from India. This book is, however, written from a vegan perspective.

Jains, Hindus, Jews, Muslims?

Most non-vegetarian restaurants here use lard oil, probably from cows, and even "vegetarian" restaurants usually use a lot of cheese, which virtually always contains rennet from cows (I've never heard of vegetarian cheese being used here, as most Taiwanese vegetarians don't worry about small amounts of non-veg ingredients (such as rennet)in their food. Like vegans everywhere, vegans in Taiwan take their ethical lifestyle seriously, and I would therefore recommend that all Jains and Hindus (vegetarian or those who just avoid eating cows) to eat only at vegan restaurants. While there are a few sources of Halal meat in Taiwan it's very rare, so by far the easiest and safest option for Muslims and orthodox Jews is to eat at vegan restaurants.

Places to Eat With Omnivores?

I occasionally get requests to include vegan-friendly places which also serve meat, for vegans traveling with omnivores. While I certainly understand this need (and admire vegans who can travel with non-vegans) I am sorry but no, a vegan travel guide is not the place to find out where to buy meat. I do, however, list vegan (and vegetarian) places which are especially popular with omnivores, such as the Fruitful Food buffet

Taiwanese

I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support from many Taiwanese in my writing this guide. As a travel guide, however, it's unlikely to be much use to local people who are familiar with the country's culture and infrastructure and who can read and speak Chinese. Of course anyone is welcome to purchase a copy, but it is intended for foreign visitors unfamiliar with the country and language. I would be very grateful if everyone could share this with vegan, vegetarian or health-conscious friends and family overseas who may be interested in visiting Taiwan.

Why use Guidebooks at All?

For most people over forty, buying a travel guide before visiting a new country is a given, while for most people under thirty, the idea is absurd. It's certainly possible to plan a trip to Taiwan using free online resources, including perhaps my own "free" (commercial) Formosa Guide website, perhaps combined with food information from this blog.

As someone in between these generations, however, and someone who both sells guidebooks but makes more money from advertisements on my "free" site than selling guidebooks, I feel qualified to say that the younger generation get the worst deal. Travel websites (including my Formosa Guide, not my blogs, and of course not my books) are designed to attract and hold the reader's attention, but also to be inefficient, so that readers spend as long as possible on the site, and view as many pages - and thus advertisements - as possible. And of course travel websites (including my own) focus on places where we can earn hotel commissions. My book, on the other hand, is written to provide the best, commercial-free experience to travelers who are willing to pay for it. Simply put, on my free website, I answer to my advertisers, while with my book I answer to my readers. Given how much travelers spend on an overseas holiday, I think the extra few dollars for a travel guide is money very, very well spent, especially for vegans when the book is written especially for vegans. Even the most skilled and diligent planner is unlikely to take into account as many considerations as someone who lives in the country and spends months undertaking careful research. And for many visitors, the cost of the guidebook will probably be offset by money saved taking the cheaper and more efficient public travel recommended in the guidebook, or by being able to plan to eat at nearby inexpensive restaurants more easily.

Example: Northern Taipei

Most people enjoy Tamsui, especially for the sunset (see the blog header above), but don't realise that it's unbearably crowded during weekends. And the museums, including the famous Hot Spring Museum (once the largest public hot spring in the Japanese empire) is closed on Mondays. By far the best restaurant is Yummy Vegan Home, but it and its sister restaurant (Yummy Vegan House) are both closed on Wednesdays. So this leaves visiting Beitou and Tamsui for a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday. Few people do this much research, and most end up overwhelmed by crowds, hungry, or frustrated that they came all this way to find the best sights closed.

It works Offline

While SIM cards are easily available and Taipei was the first city in the world to introduce city-wide free WiFi (as explained in the book) I still think there's value in having everything offline, in one place. I list names and addresses in Chinese (and English) of all destinations in this guide, so it's easy to stop and ask someone the way or show a taxi where you want to go without having to try to Google something in another language. You can even read the book and plan your trip on the plane (just check the weather forecast first).

Maps & Addresses

Maps are made using Google Maps Engine, are reproduced in their original form in accordance with Google's Terms. They are all available (free) here. For users who read the book on a phone or tablet, I have recently added links which bring up directions from the user's current location in Google Maps.

Taiwan's complicated but highly efficient address system is also explained, but for the short-term visitor it's usually easiest to just get as close as possible on public transport, show the address in Chinese (always provided in this guidebook) to a passer-by and ask for directions. Taiwanese are exceptionally friendly and helpful to foreigners, and in Taipei an English-speaker will always appear almost immediately and be keen to help.

Why Kindle (E-books)?

I understand that some people prefer traditional (printed) guidebooks, and that Amazon's Kindle is not the only platform for distributing electronic books. First, I endeavour to keep my guidebook updated, and this is obviously much more practical with electronic versions.

Most people buy a guidebook before leaving home, and printing and sending books internationally would take too long and be prohibitively expensive for many travelers. I am, however, planning to set up Print On Demand through Amazon, which would enable customers to order the latest version of the book, and then Amazon will print a copy and send it out. These are of rather low quality, especially the photographs, but perfectly functional for a utilitarian book like a travel guide.

Amazon's Kindle platform allows the book to be read on almost any device and platform (Android, Windows, iOS), as the pages are automatically reformatted for all sized screens. The font size can easily be adjusted to suit the reader. The Kindle app can be downloaded (free) for Android and iOS, and once paid for books can be downloaded instantly and read on several different devices simultaneously. I strongly recommend installing the Kindle App and downloading the book on both a tablet and a smartphone. Read the book on the plane on your tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab, iPad etc) but have it ready on your smartphone to quickly check which station to get off at, or to pass to a taxi driver to show an address in Chinese.

Why Not Use the Lonely Planet?

Perhaps my greatest difficulty with this project is convincing people - even vegans - that my guidebook will be more useful than their trusted Lonely Planet. But Lonely Planet staff don't care about vegans (or vegetarians) at all: their guide to Taiwan barely recommends any of Taipei's best vegan or even vegetarian restaurants. I doubt they even consulted Happycow listings in making their selections, let alone tried any themselves.

Vegans (and vegetarians) who eat fish should be fine with the Lonely Planet. (And no, most organic shops in Japan don't offer anything vegan either.)
Photo: Lonely Planet, Japan
 
Worse still, the Lonely Planet is dangerously misleading: for years many foreigners in Taiwan (including myself) believed that the ubiquitous fake meat is vegan, because the Lonely Planet authors say so, when in fact it usually contains dairy products, egg and often real meat. Even instructions on how to find vegetarian restaurants are wrong: the Lonely Planet instructs its loyal readers to look for the 'reverse savastika', whereas in reality only a small proportion of restaurants use it. But virtually all vegetarian restaurants use these common vegetarian symbols. Thousands of visitors must have missed tens of thousands of restaurants because of this. If they could have been bothered it would have taken the authors five minutes to  learn these correct symbols from any Taiwanese vegetarian.

Both these vegetarian restaurants use the common vegetarian symbols, which are used by most vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan (this and their newer equivalents are all explained in the book). Only the restaurant on the rights uses the 'reverse swastika', which is used by about ten per cent of vegetarian restaurants and is recommended by the Lonely Planet as the best way to find a vegetarian restaurant.

Anyone who trusts the Lonely Planet should read Do Travel Writers Go to Hell, in which former LP author and whistleblower Thomas Kohnstamm explains that staff aren't paid enough to even cover their basic travel expenses, let alone earn a living, and that they instead earn their money from bribes and "freebies" (usually accommodation, food, alcohol and sometimes other "services") in exchange for recommending hotels and restaurants.

Culture, History, Politics and Religion

When I travel I like to know a little about the culture and history of the country, especially any connections to vegetarianism. In this guidebook I summarise the history of Taiwan and its  complicated political situation, to help the reader understand (for example) why it's offensive to refer to Taiwanese as "Chinese" - despite the fact that their passport says "Republic of China" and the airline you may well arrive on is called "China Airlines" and not say the wrong things at the wrong times.

An I Kuan Tao altar in a family home. While it's little known outside of Taiwan, owners of most Chinese vegetarian restaurants around the world are run by devout followers of Taiwan's third largest religion.

I also describe the main religious groups in Taiwan, three of which promote vegetarianism. The original form of this article is (free) here. In the Lonely Planet I Kuan Tao, the third largest religion in the country, whose members own at least half of the country's vegetarian restaurants, is dismissed as a "cult" in one sentence. Supreme Master Ching Hai, whose followers run virtually all of Taiwan's vegan restaurants, does not even get a mention. Of course if you're not interested in any of this being an electronic book it's easy to skip this chapter, and it doesn't add any extra 'weight'.

Why Not Just Use Happycow?

Use Happycow! As a "Happycow Ambassador" (volunteer contact person for Taipei), I always encourage everyone - of course including readers of my book - to use the world's largest database of vegan-friendly restaurants. If you just want to know about restaurants then this book is not for you, and I recommend Happycow perhaps along with this blog.

But if you are travelling to Taipei, especially for the first time, then this guidebook should replace your conventional guidebook (eg Lonely Planet, Rough Guide). And it integrates with Happycow, fitting restaurants and attractions into the same outings and displaying them on all on the same maps. This book covers where to go in Taipei, when, how to get around, language (of course vegan-specific), accommodation, safety and everything else traditionally covered by travel guidebooks.

Find the Best, Safest Restaurants for Vegans

Of course, vegans need to eat (and what vegans don't travel for food?) and many travellers do want recommendations of the best restaurants - especially ones easily accessible from tourist attractions - and can't be bothered searching through the hundreds on Happycow, many of which aren't vegan-friendly. I have been living in or regularly visiting Taiwan for over a decade, and have eaten at every vegan restaurant in greater Taipei, mostly several times, and through my book and blog I have been following how travellers feel about different restaurants for a decade.

This travel guide includes Taipei's best vegan restaurants (and the very best vegetarian ones, in the few cases they are better than vegan ones) along with cuisine style, price range, a photo, a brief description and review, opening hours, websites and addresses (in Chinese and English, and public transport directions). And their Happycow reviews are just a click away.

Authenticity

I have personally visited all destinations and eaten at all restaurants recommended in this guide (except one, as stated in the guide). I never identify myself as a guidebook writer, and only occasionally introduce myself as a blogger when I need to ask for more information than a regular customer would. This guidebook contains no advertisements in any form. I always pay for my meals in full and have never and would never take any form of incentives for listings or recommendations, here or on any of my blogs. I have taken all photographs in the book myself.

Have a Great Trip to Taiwan!

Taiwan is Asia's most underrated travel destination. Having been ruled by several countries over the centuries it has a wide variety of cultural and historic sights and attractions. Taipei has a modern, reliable, inexpensive public transport system, and Taiwanese are exceptionally warm and friendly towards foreign visitors. Most people in Taipei speak English and are happy to help foreigners, and most signs are bilingual. Taiwan is also very safe, with violent very rare, especially towards foreigners. Taiwan has an infrastructure comparable to Japan prices comparable to Thailand.

Fortunately, About Animals, Taipei's top burger bar, has recently re-opened after closing what seemed like permanently.

Taiwan is also the vegan heart of Asia, with over a dozen vegan restaurants in Taipei having opened in the last few years, and in built-up areas there's usually a vegetarian restaurant within walking distance. Even the ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores sell frozen vegan meals, which they can microwave on the spot. Taipei is one of very few destinations in the world where it's possible to set up for a day's sightseeing without having to even think about where you'll eat, and with this guide there will always be plenty to choose from. I wish you a safe and enjoyable trip to the country that has become my second home.

Buy or Download Free Sample 


*Unfortunately, Amazon.com adds additional charge (usually $2 USD) to users of Amazon.com outside the US, including, ironically, Taiwan. This is above and beyond their usual commissions and is kept by Amazon.com to recover extra costs and taxes involved in selling the book overseas, and is totally beyond my control. There are also issues with buying them from Singapore as a result of Singapore's censorship laws. Please email me if you have any problems. 
If these issues are not resolved, I hope to move the guidebook to a better platform, hopefully Google (as an app instead of a book) but this is still a long way off. 


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