Eating Vegan In Taiwan: Part 1

vegan food Taiwan

This is my official guide on how to eat vegan in Taipei, Taiwan. Spoiler alert: It’s pretty easy! Recently I tasted some of the best food I’ve ever had there. I visited quaint little tea shops, vegan bakeries, all-you-can-eat buffets, sit-in restaurants, street vendors, and everything in between. If you have an upcoming trip to Taiwan and you’re wondering what yummy things there are to eat, I hope this guide helps!

Traditional Taiwan Buffets

vegan taiwanese buffet

One thing I learned is that buffets are very popular in Taiwan. I’m talking all-you-can-eat, pay-by-weight buffets where there is an enormous variety of things to choose from. What’s even cooler though, is that there are also many vegetarian-specific buffets throughout Taipei! My friend and I had no trouble pulling up Google Maps to search for Taiwanese buffets.

Taiwanese Buffet

During our trip we visited two vegetarian-specific ones, and one non-vegetarian one. Even the non-vegetarian one had a huge selection of vegan-friendly options, as vegetables are very popular in their cuisine. Some of the things I had at the buffets include fried tofu in various sauces, teriyaki eggplant, spicy stewed potatoes and carrots, cabbage/sprout salads, fresh fruit, steamed pumpkin, sides of rice, green leafy vegetables in garlic sauce, peanut noodles, glass noodles, spicy steamed cabbage, seasoned seitan, and so much more.

vegan buffet

It would take me a long time to list everything that was available at these places! So if you’re REALLY hungry and looking for a place to eat in Taipei, check out a traditional Taiwanese buffet. The vegetarian ones are easy to find on Google Maps, but even if you visit a non-vegetarian one you’ll have plenty of vegetable, noodle, rice, tofu and faux-meat options.

Taiwan Street Food

Similar to many of the other Asian countries I’ve visited, street food was very popular in Taiwan. The night markets were lined with stands selling all sorts of delicious snacks. Cruise and I often made a meal of street-food, opting to explore the city and eat as we walked, trying as many different things as we could! I’ll talk about all of the best vegan treats that I found:

Cabbage Dumplings

cabbage dumplings

MMmmm mmm, were these good! Many dumpling recipes you see online call for eggs in the dough. I asked around a lot while I was in Taiwan (if the dough included egg) and almost every time I was told ‘no’ so I don’t think egg is a common ingredient in dough in Taiwan. It is always good to ask just to be sure, but I found that most of the dumplings around were vegan-friendly as far as the dough is concerned.

These particular dumplings were filled with steamed cabbage. I know it sounds plain, but they were seasoned somehow that made them delicious! They were hot, salty, and full of flavor.

Sesame Buns

sesame buns

These were AMAZING. The outside of the bread is hard/crispy, with sesame seeds on top. The inside is filled with either warm black sesame paste, or warm red bean paste. Both varieties were SO good! One thing I like about Asian desserts is that they aren’t too sweet. The red bean and black sesame fillings were just sweet enough, but not overpowering. Combined with the hot crispy outside, they were such a unique treat.

Coal-Baked Sweet Potatoes

baked sweet potato

It sounds simple, but these are really good! I had these for the first time in Japan, and was so happy to see them in Taipei. Plain sweet potatoes are put on top of hot coals and baked for a few hours. The outside skin gets this charred/smokey flavor, and the inside gets hot and gooey. It just melts in your mouth when you bite into it – it’s very filling as well!

Sweet Bean/Lentil and Potato Balls Over Ice

sweet bean dessert

Ok, that was a really weird title for these. I’m not exactly sure what the official name for this dish is, but it’s pretty awesome.

Sweet potatoes and red beans are mixed with sugar and rolled into these balls. Then you warm them up until they’re pretty hot. When you’re ready to serve, you put them in a cup over crushed ice and eat it right away before the ice starts to melt.

We found this snack while exploring Jiufen, Taiwan (a harbor town near Taipei). The combination of the hot potato/ball mix on top of the cold ice was really interesting! Before visiting Asia I never would have thought that beans would taste good in a dessert, but it’s actually very common over there. You know what they say though, “don’t knock it before you try it!” I have to say, I’m coming around to it. After all, this dish was really good! It doesn’t hurt that we also ate them in front of an incredible view overlooking the mountains and ocean.

Dumplings And Noodles

Oh my, where do I begin? The dumplings and noodles I had throughout Taipei were beyond good. Definitely some of the best I’ve ever had!

Noodles

The two best noodle dishes I had were sesame/peanut noodles, and plain spicy noodles. The sesame noodles had this brown (sesame) sauce over them that had a very nutty flavor. It was very unique tasting, and extremely good. We found these at a small restaurant near our hostel (Meander Taipei Hostel).

Sesame noodles

The spicy noodles were so simple, but very good. We found a restaurant that served them early on near our hostel. We couldn’t read the name of the store (as the sign was in Mandarin) so we simply started calling this place “Broccoli.” We ordered the noodles, broccoli, and a carrot/white bean salad as our meal. I enjoyed mixing my noodles with the spicy chili-garlic sauce they served on the side.

Taiwan noodles

Again, it was so simple, but so good! One thing I really like about the format of dining in Asia, is how there are many small plates that you eat from. In America usually your food comes out on one giant plate. But in Asia, your food is served on various small plates, and you are meant to take bites of various things as your meal progresses. It’s different, but enjoyable!

Dumplings

Vegetable dumplings

The dumpling game in Taipei is ON. POINT. The first place we had dumplings was at a famous restaurant in Taipei called Din Tai Fung. Apparently this place is extremely well known for their dumplings, and so we we had to go there! I tried the veggie dumplings which were filled with leeks and mushrooms (very good).

black sesame taro dumplings

At this restuarant we also ordered some steamed (baked?) buns filled with taro (a root vegetable that is sweet, similar to a sweet potato – but they’re purple!) and black sesame paste. Both of them were slightly sweet, and soooooo good. I highly recommend you check out Din Tai Fung if you are ever in Taipei for some amazing dumplings!

vegetable dumplings taiwan

Another place I had dumplings at was the same restaurant where I had the sesame/peanut noodles. I tried the “garden dumplings” that were filled with tofu, onions, and mushrooms. Again, so good! I enjoyed dipping my dumplings in soy sauce, spicy chili paste, or rice vinegar – the three classic dipping sauces you usually have with dumplings over there.

That’s all for part 1. Curious to read about more vegan treats in Taiwan? Check out part 2 of this post in the next few days!

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