Most of the time, I feel as if I’m split between two worlds: my “official” status as an American citizen and my cultural bloodline as a Taiwanese woman. It makes complete sense to me, then, that I feel an innate magnetism to Taiwan whenever I go there, including the magnetic force of its bountiful foodie scene.
Ok, feels aside, Taiwan is an awesome country that caters — quite literally — to those with a huge appetite. I’ve spoken to tons of Taiwan-fanatics who tell me they’ve either gotten sick and thrown up from trying to eat all of the delicious street food they can (and #noregrets either) or who wished they had 7 stomachs so they can keep on eating. I am in the latter party… I’ve learned my lesson about overfilling my tummy. God, why can’t I just order a larger capacity stomach on Amazon yet?!
For those of you who are fans of lists, here you go, you list-loving lamoids! I’ve complied my top ten favorite joints, from least to most liked (tryna give everyone a fair chance here, otherwise y’all would just read the first one and click somewhere else! Though I know y’all are gonna just scroll all the way down, anyway -_-). Don’t get too jealous — after all, Taiwan is only a 16-hour flight away 😏
- Farmer’s Kitchen – Hualian
Being that Hualian is a more remote part of Taiwan, I was worried there wouldn’t be too many vegan choices. Not so! I was able to find this cute restaurant quite easily on HappyCow as well as Yelp, as it was also the closest full-service vegan restaurant to our hotel.
Although I love the minimal decor and healthy selections, I wasn’t very happy about the service. The waitresses are all sullen, barely speak to you and make it feel like they hate their jobs. Well, if you hate your job, whatever — but I don’t need to feel it. They also plopped the check down along with the serving of our dessert. Rude!
- Ooh Cha Cha – Taipei
Highly popular on review apps and blogs, I expected Ooh Cha Cha to be on point when it came to taste, appearance and quality. Well, it fulfilled two out of three of those expectations (I’ll let you guess which ones).
The husband-and-wife operated cafe has a clean, minimalist vibe and matching eats, which range from homemade veggie burgers to noodle bowls. They also custom-make raw vegan cheesecake, which is pretty awesome as I’m sure it’s not easy to buy a whole vegan cake in Taiwan.
- Veggie Grill – Taipei
This place had every reason to be higher up on my list, the only reason it wasn’t being that they only had two vegan selections. The place is super small with a max capacity to fit about 8 people, so we were lucky that it wasn’t busy.
There were two vegan selections: the focaccia hash brown burger and the pesto mushroom burger. Both were stellar, though I liked the hash brown burger more. They also had a lovely lemonade libation that is freshly made (which we ordered seconds of) and a bunch of other coffee drinks.
- Mos Burger – Asia/Australia, multiple locations
Mos Burger is a chain that originated in Japan and which is now wildly popular, having taken over pretty much all of East Asia (locations in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore Indonesia, South Korea) and Australia.
By far, it’s the most convenient way to fill your belly if you’re out late or out super early (as jet lag will most likely cause you to do), and certainly is a healthier (and far tastier) choice versus eating ramen or ten granola bars. Mos has one vegan burger that is filled with a delicious medley of veggies, and their red tea (hong tsa) is not cloyingly sweet like soda can be.
- Yu Shan Ge – Taipei
I had high hopes for this restaurant that had glowing reviews on Yelp, Tripadvisor and Happy Cow but was a bit underwhelmed. Just goes to show you that you really can’t always rely on online review sites (except mine! I always give my honest opinion :P).
Basically, they spend a lot of time on presentation and etiquette (which I did enjoy), but the food was not out-of-this-world, especially for the high price tag. If you are curious about dining here, I’d say fine, but it’s really not the best vegan joint in Taipei. Save your trip money for places further down this list.
- 修圓素食 – Taipei
This place was open at 7 AM, which all but saved us the first few jetlagged days from starvation (ok, I am exaggerating, but we were sick of eating street buns and soymilk for breakfast and wanted a real breakfast. Unfortunately vegan spots in Taipei don’t open till around 10AM. Taking it easy much, guys?!). It took me a while to locate since I am super American and I can’t read Chinese (I speak it decent though!) and had to memorize how the characters looked while finding the store sign.
After about 4-5 mins, we stumbled into this deliciously amazing Buddhist hole-in-the-wall that had all manner of mock meats, flavor-rife noodle soups and expertly cooked fried soft tofu (no, that is not an oxymoron, it was OUT OF THIS WORLD delicious). The only reason it isn’t lower on my list is because it wasn’t really air conditioned and it was a bit ramshackle. The food more than made up for that, though. Plus, the cook is a mom toting a baby on her back #momboss!
- Herban Kitchen – Taipei
Matcha almond milk na-teah (latte in Chinese) with a side of youthquake, anyone? This hipster-heaven, instagrammable joint is helmed by a staff that looks to be all under the age of 25. That might up the trend factor by at least 30%, but it also ups the wait time to about 15% longer. And it wasn’t even that busy! Still, I did enjoy the eats I had here after having waited 20+ mins for it.
Luckily, tipping isn’t expected in Taiwan, because they wouldn’t have gotten one. I begrudgingly list this as my 4th favorite spot solely due to the fact that their food was tasty, the vibe was on point, and their menu had lots of interesting selections.
- Mei Xin Vegan Restaurant – Hualian
First off, this place is NOT vegan as it says in its moniker. They have mostly vegan items but some do use milk. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the vast selection of expertly cooked mock fish, eel and pork as well as the immense wonton soup with melt-in-your-mouth wontons, the mere memory of which is causing me to salivate.
The owner of this restaurant has been veg for 50 years, a true testament to the authenticity of the place. The only thing I didn’t like was that the bathroom looked like it belonged to a dive bar and only had squat toilets. I guess you know you’re not in Kansas anymore when that’s the case!
- Miss Green – Taipei
As one of my last dinners in Taiwan, I might have been a bit biased in saying that this meal was one of my favorites. I liked that they had a set menu since it allowed me to sample quite a few different dishes.
The menu is 100% Western, meaning it was all avocado toast, smoothies, pasta and burgers (which is 100% ok with me!). The decor paired impeccably with the message of the restaurant (or should I say messages — they had quite a few vegan inspo quotes scattered throughout) and I thoroughly enjoyed the intimate, friendly atmosphere.
- Soul R. Cafe – Taipei
Finally, you’ve reached my number one pick, and what a worthy contender it is! Soul R. Vegan cafe is like the cool, jazzy and classy all-black, avant-garde coworker you are intimidated to talk to, but in the end it turns out they’re super nice (and you kick yourself for not talking to them earlier!).
Like Miss Green, Soul R. has a set menu and western-style cuisine, with one key difference: everything is cooked with utmost care and attention to flavor, portion size and presentation. No detail is left to the imagination: the cutlery and tableware are all by Bodum, and even the toilet, sink and soap are black! I’m a sucker for the details — they elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.
One weird thing is that on their social channels, there’s tons of photos of the owner (at least I think it’s the owner, otherwise… why??), a selfie-happy Taiwanese chick with a super pale complexion. It doesn’t really do anything for the restaurant’s image… I think they need to hire a new social media manager, IMO. In this day and age, that sort of thing is a given #eyeroll #itstruetho #smh.
- Stinky tofu stand:For a cheap and filling meal under $3, this tofu stand (which, admittedly, is situated by a dumpster filled with roaches) in the Gongguan Night Market hits the spot.
I’d recommend taking your food to go, since it really isn’t the most hygienic place to sit and eat, but once you do eat it, you can taste how multilayered the spice-profile of the tofu is, and enjoy the tear-inducingly spicy slurry that comes with slurping up the noods. Make sure you have a cool drink to counter it, you’re gonna need it between nom breaks!
- Fried Stinky tofu stand in Hualian’s Dongdamen Night Market:Ok, by now you know I REALLY like stinky tofu. I ate at this stand both times I visited DongDaMen so, needless to say, a must-try. The lady helming the stand is grumpy-ish looking, but she’s actually quite nice. She makes the tofu freshly fried on the spot. Stinky yumz!
- Loving Hut, Hualian:So I didn’t really have *food* here, but this place (which is run by worshippers of Ching Hai, AKA “Supreme Master” to her followers) had a lot of vegan pastries (including vegan pineapple cake!) that I found unique, though not that tasty. I’m also creeped out by the fact that the place is founded on a religion that feels very cult-ish. Still, they did have vegan stuff, so there I was.