I spent a month and a half twerking, traveling, and eating my way through Taiwan. It’s a foodie’s paradise! I’m not strictly vegetarian, but as I get older, I’ve just noticed how much better I feel when I limit my meat intake and eat more vegetables. Taiwan is a great place for vegetarians and vegans. Overall I didn’t see them cooking with many dairy products, and thanks to the many Buddhist monasteries, there are towns like Puli, that cater to vegetarian diets. I also have a detailed itinerary of where I went in Taiwan, here.
I’m SO glad I’m not a picky eater and have tried everything from coagulated blood to fish stomach. Being Mexican and having been used to eating cow’s stomach in menudo helps. Watching Anthony Bourdain as a kid definitely helped get me ready to just try new foods with an open mind and without reservations (hah!). It was also hard enough pointing to a menu and ordering something.
I didn’t realize until the end of my trip that you can use the google translate app to take photos of menus and translate them. This is how you can modify your order for allergies/restrictions if you don’t speak Chinese. I slowly picked things up, though. I was able to say monetary amounts, like “105” to verify my check amount for things like an oyster omelet.
Here are my favorite dishes by city!
Food in Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei is a pretty multicultural city. It’s a great place to be to sample tastes from all of Asia! I tried Indonesian food for the very first time next to the Grand Mosque and near Da’an Park at a restaurant called Royal Indonesian Food. They had to-go plates near the door ready for pickup mainly from folks who were leaving the mosque. I sat down and ate and I just ordered at the counter.
My first week, I stayed in the peaceful Da’an neighborhood. One night, I strolled around in Yongkang Park, where they had lots of high quality, cute souvenir shops with everything from boba tea holders to cardboard postcards with Shiba Inus (Taiwan MUST have the highest per capita population of Shibas!) on them. For dinner, I had delicious Vietnamese food at Thanh Ky there.
At the night markets, you can get anything you need, like squid on a stick, fried sweet potato balls, corn on a cob, or oyster omelettes. Roahe night market was my favorite.
As for drinks, you can’t go wrong with boba (bubble tea). There are SO many stands all over the city offering so many flavors. You can also adjust the amount of ice and sugar. I just wanted a little sugar, so I’d say “wei tang” (or you can just point to the menu they’ll give you if you’re struggling to communicate).
For coffee, my friend Rukmani recommended Simple Kaffa. The owner won the world barista challenge a couple years ago and placed multiple times. As she said, “You can taste the winning in the coffee”! They have coffee beans from countries as far away as Ethiopia. I had an iced coffee (yes, I’m VERY queer) with osmanthus flavor. I’d never heard of the osmanthus flower until I went to Taiwan and now I will forever associate that light, citrus smell with this country).
Food in Hualien, Taiwan
I went to Hualien because it’s the gateway to Taroko Gorge National Park. I spent some nights going out to eat at Dongdamen Night market. They had a seafood stand where I enjoyed the Taiwan 18 days beer and some squid cooked in wine, garlic, and veggies. I asked for rice on the side (pronounced “fan” in Chinese).
For vegetarian options, the night market has some, but I would usually just go to Ba Fang Yun Ji Dumpling and order their fried tofu, vegetable dumplings, and sauteed vegetables.
Food in Kaohsiung, taiwan
The Pier 2 Art Center has lots of cute shops and restaurants. By this point, I’d been in Taiwan for about a month, and the American food cravings hit, as much as I don’t like to admit it. I went to Pizza Rock twice because the staff were nice and they also had locally brewed beer options. It was also near Pier 2.
For vegetarian options, myself and another vegan traveler I met through Couchsurfing meetups found a cafe with a full course meal in Banana Pier.
I also went to a lot of bento box places there, where you can pick and choose either rice/noodles/meats/veggies.
Food in Puli, taiwan
This was hands down my favorite food destination in the entire country! Shout out to ALL the Buddhist monks living here that help locals cater to their vegetarian needs! I was in foodie heaven here. For accommodations, I stayed at Center Center hostel with an awesome family who made a map of all the vegetarian destinations in town, and there are A LOT.
I went to what the locals call “The CAT Cafe.” It’s a vegan place with locally sourced soups made with black tea and the locally grown water bamboo.
My favorite place to eat was the Yuan Hao Vegetarian Restaurant. You get the items and weigh them. They had a huge variety of veggies and desserts. The monks loved that place, too! I went every day.
Other things I tried in Puli were the stinky tofu (that was one of the few dishes in my life I haven’t been able to finish). They also had bao, steamed buns with fillings like pork and tofu.