Saturday, 10 January 2015

Publication: A Vegan TRAVEL Guide to Taiwan

Chasing the Tamsui sunset is one of Taipei's most popular outings, but is not easy to catch.

For year's I've been using this blog to promote vegan businesses in Taiwan which should be of interest to English-speaking vegetarians and vegans, but now I'd like to promote my own. For the last few year's I've been slowly working on a vegan travel guide to Taiwan, but particularly since I returned to Taiwan as a student in August. I hope the have the book out in the next few months, and will probably sell it as an ebook on Amazon Kindle, available for kindle reading devices or as an app for most smartphones and tablets (including iPads). With the amount of work I've put in (instead of doing 'real' work) I do need to sell it, but it will be significantly cheaper than regular travel guides.

What it Is and What it's Not
As far as I am aware, this will be the world's first travel guide for vegans. It's intended to be used by short-term visitors to Taiwan who don't speak Chinese (as there's plenty available in Chinese already), but may also be of use to anyone moving here. This is not a 'vegan guide' in the traditional sense, in that it's focus is not on reviewing restaurants and other vegan businesses. Instead it features outings, connecting all Taipei's vegan restaurants, and a few good vegetarian ones, with top tourist attractions, making planning food and sightseeing easy.


Guandu Temple, north of Taipei, is an impressive sight, but the nearest vegan-friendly restaurants are in Beitou (a short MRT ride away).

This Information is Already Here
Much of this information is available from this blog and my commercial site www.formosaguide.com, including many photographs (often shared between all three). And any that isn't probably will be eventually, as I like to offer all information to anyone who wants it and have no interest in a 'premium' section of this blog. What this book offers is a convenient guidebook format which works offline, can be read on the plane and has symbols and addresses all ready to use (eg show taxis), and suggested itineraries to make planning your trip easier. Again this is just like how most guidebooks also post much of their information online (try searching for "National Palace Museum" "Lonely Planet" for example) but many people still choose to buy a concise, offline guidebook for the convenience.

So What's in a Vegan Travel Guide?
Just like any other guidebook, this covers sights and activities to do in Taiwan. And, like other guidebooks, they're listed alongside nearby restaurants, with a quick description of the type of food they offer, an approximate price range, opening hours and their address in English and in Chinese. I always include one photo of a meal and the storefront if it's necessary to find it. The only difference: all the restaurants in this guide are vegan-friendly. About two thirds are fully vegan, one third vegetarian and one also serves meat but is the most vegan-friendly restaurant in Tamsui.

Maps
 
 
Maps are screenshots of maps created using Google's MyMaps (used in accordance with their terms and conditions) and clicking on them will bring up the same map in a web browser or other suitable application (Google's new MyMaps is best); I'm working on a way for users to be able to use them offline, which will probably be Osmand (for Android). For example, just like any other guidebook I'll tell you how to reach Taipei 101, how to get to the observatory at the top, how much it costs and the best times to go (and not to). But I also describe the several vegetarian restaurants around, explaining possible itineraries.
What's Covered in the First Edition?
 The book is divided into 'Outings' for northern, southern and eastern Taipei with suggestions for one, two or three days for each, depending on how long you have and your priorities (nature, history, culture etc). The first edition will also cover Jiufen (and Jinguashi and Houtong), Jiaoxi and Yilan and of course Taroko Gorge. If it's successful the next edition will cover Southern Taiwan, and I dream of a final edition covering all of Taiwan and its outlying islands.

Accommodation

City Home, Hualien's fully vegan B&B, is excellent value at 2000NT per night (weeknights only)


Since hotel prices, deals and owners change so rapidly and everyone has their own tastes and expectations, I recommend booking most hotels online, and for the rest (midweek) just turning up and finding a hotel near the train station. I discuss types of accommodation, including budget hotels, love hotels and the blurry line in between, luxury hotels, hostels and Air B&B. I do, however, recommend this vegan B&B in Hualien and discuss options in Taroko Gorge.

How Long?

If you did absolutely everything in this guide it would probably take three weeks, but I expect that this book would be sufficient for a first-time visitor to Taiwan for up to about a week. If you have any longer than that and I'd recommend (for now) either using Wikitravel or purchasing another guidebook as well, and then travelling to Southern Taiwan and the stunning East Coast, and if possible going into the central mountain range. If you have a special interest (eg hiking, bird watching, or aboriginal villages) then there are many excellent blogs and some specialist travel guides available which would supplement this one very well. With my explanations of the food labelling system, chain restaurants, convenience store food and general travel tips it should be very easy to travel outside of the area covered by this book independently, and eat well as you do. 


Vegetarian Survival

 

Just as most guidebooks describe the cuisine of a country, I explain the different types of vegetarian and vegan foods and restaurants available in Taiwan, list common chains and notable branches. I explain how world's best labelling system works, so that the traveller can easily find their own food in convenience stores or elsewhere, and use the provided translations to easily ask staff for help. I also explain the situation with fake meats, most of which contain dairy and egg products, despite common misconceptions that they are vegan. Like any other guidebook, I include the history, culture, religions and languages of Taiwan, and include practical information on transport, safety and other  necessities for a holiday, including what to prepare and bring and how to find and book hotels. A small section at the start covers what to bring and what to do to prepare, but the rest can be read on the plane, so you should be able to turn up in Taipei with an itinerary all worked out.
 
Enjoy the stewed tofu at the beautiful (Xiangde Temple) deep in Taroko Gorge, but don't trust their other menu items.

 
Why not just use a conventional guidebook and Happycow?
It's certainly possible, and I've been doing it for years, in many different countries, for years. However, that often leaves the traveller trying to weave together their favourite restaurants with their chosen travel itinerary, in an unfamiliar city in limited time, which often requires hours of preparation and from my experience doesn't always work as planned. Also, most guidebooks recommend so many restaurants with nothing for vegetarians to eat, as well as zoos, dolphinariums, fish spas and other such "entertainment". I believe that vegans and vegetarians need and deserve our own guidebooks, and I'm surprised it hasn't (as far as I know) already been done. I have aspirations to cover plenty more destinations if this guidebook is a success.

Of course there are hundreds of restaurants and possible sites of interest in Taiwan, and everyone has different travel and dining priorities, so I still recommend using Happycow and other sites, however this guidebook should at least offer some skeleton plans for exploring Taiwan, and can always be used offline to find food, sights and other essential information normally found in guidebooks, but without having to skip past the best oyster omelet recommendations or the best times to go and photograph the new pandas from China.

Note that the vegetarian restaurant on the right uses the savastika, but the one on the left doesn't. The black box outlines the characters most commonly used to advertise a vegetarian restaurant.

Finally,  most conventional guidebook writers make little effort to provide useful, up-to-date information for vegetarians, and certainly don't go out of their way to find the best restaurants (or, it seems, even consult Happycow). As an example, here is the chapter of my Lonely Planet, with my comments in red. This is from the 2007 edition, but the newer one is almost identical but has omitted the reference to vegan food altogether, perhaps after the scare that a lot of fake meat contains real meat.


Vegetarian Cuisine (from Lonely Planet Taiwan)
Vegetarian visitors to Taiwan may well consider applying for citizenship once they've experienced the joys of Taiwanese vegetarian cuisine. Almost the only true statement, but unfortunately it's very difficult. ... Buddhist vegetarian restaurants are easy to find. Just look for the giant savastika (an ancient Buddhist symbol that looks like a reverse swastika) hung in front of the restaurant. This myth is perpetuated largely by this book. Only a small fraction of vegetarian restaurants display the savastika (only ones run by Buddhists, and not even all of those), however there are enough vegetarian restaurants that this myth survives, with many tourists simply never realising that they're walking right past many vegetarian restaurants everywhere they go. All they need to say is to look for two almost universal vegetarian symbols; see my post on finding restaurants here. If the restaurant has a cassette or CD of playing a soothing loop of ami tofo (Buddhist chant) and a few robed monks and nuns among the lay patrons, you're in business. Some Buddhist restaurants do play Buddhist chants, but few are likely to have monks and nuns dining at any point in time. It's certainly not a reliable indicator of a vegetarian restaurant.  Food at these places tends to not merely be 100% vegan-friendly (no animal products of any kind) but also garlic and hot-pepper free (fiery belching being disruptive to meditation)... This is absolutely wrong. Many dishes at these restaurants contain diary products (often hidden, usually in sauces and fake meats) and many also contain egg (also hidden). I explain this, and the lack of garlic and onion, in my guide.


Authenticity
I have visited every location recommended in this guide, usually at least twice on separate occasions. All photos are my own except historical photographs appropriately credited to Wikimedia Commons. I have personally eaten at all the restaurants, always pay my bill and have not taken (and will not take) any form of incentive whatsoever for recommendation in this guide. While, after maintaining this blog for many years I have come to know the owners and staff at several of these restaurants, I do not know personally any of the current owners of any restaurants or businesses I recommend. This guidebook does not contain any advertisements.

National Taiwan Museum is often overlook in favour of the National Palace Museum (of Chinese treasures) but I highly recommend visiting both.


Please Help! 

I would greatly appreciate comments in the comments section, or please feel free to email me at jesse.duffield@gmail.com.

If you are living in Taiwan:
1. Do you know of any especially good small, little-known, vegan-friendly restaurants that might appeal to foreign visitors? In particular, do you know of any good outings, which combine a great restaurant with an interesting sight or activity? I'm particularly interested in less famous spots in or around Taipei.

All Travellers:
For everyone who travels internationally, especially anyone considering a trip to Taiwan, please offer suggestions on what (if anything) you look for in a guidebook. It doesn't have to be about vegetarianism or veganism. I want this to be a guidebook that works as the main travel in for ethically-minded visitors to Taiwan (Northern Taiwan for now) and will take and greatly appreciate any advice at all. I'm particularly interested in how to integrate the traditional guidebook with the digital era, such as maps.

Xie xie!
 


Zhongshan Park, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, is within walking distance of Taipei 101 and many of Taipei's best vegan restaurants. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Guangfu Loving Hut (Hotpots)

Five years ago I posted on the Loving Huts and Supreme Master Ching Hai, the inspiration behind the world's largest vegan restaurant chain. However, since the Guangfu Loving Hut is one of only two restaurants I consider "must-visits" in Taipei (the other is Sophie's Garden), I think it's worth its own post, as it was often lost in the length and details in my other post.

Vegetables ready to cook in my favourite Ma La (spicy) broth.

Hotpots are an important feature of Taiwanese cuisine, and are often enjoyed by families and other large groups, especially during winter. The slow, relaxing process of simmering ones own food allows just seems to invite good conversation and makes a pleasant way to enjoy a slow afternoon or evening. Hotpots are also very popular in Japan, China and Korea. It's custom in Asian countries to share hotpots, but there are enough elements for each person to have their own.

A hotpot in action.

Unfortunately, however, at most restaurants the broth usually contains animal products, and while there are a few vegetarian hotpot restaurants around Taiwan, this is, as far as I know, the only vegan one, and it's certainly one of the best. It also offers a range of different vegan broths, including pots with two separate partitions for different broths.

Help yourself to the condiments.
 
It also serves some of Taipei's best fusion food (menu), including Korean Bibimbap (rice in a hot stone bowl) and some great desserts. The international menu is generally larger in summer, when hotpots are less popular and poeple feel like lighter meals. Prices are a little more expensive than other Loving Huts (mains are around 200-300NT) but excellent value for such good, labour-intensive food.

My favourite 'non-hotpot' dish is the Tomyam (Thai) Tahini Rice.

The Guangfu Loving Hut, like many others, also serves a range of vegan grocery items, including mayonaise and a few frozen products.

Packaged vegan groceries from the GuangFu Loving Hut

Nearby Sights & Restaurant
The Guangfu Loving Hut is conveniently located near Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, and a pleasant twenty minute / 1.5km walk (through the memorial hall) from Taipei 101. Also in the area is the simpler but still excellent Veggie Creek. I recommend visiting each one either side of a visit to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, and possibly Taipei 101.


 Smoothie and Ice Cream (summer menu)


Essentials
The cookers work by induction. This is a safe, responsive heating system (similar to gas) in which the pot itself becomes the element, leaving the cooker itself cool. However, any metal object placed beside it will heat up, so it's important to not place any metal or especially electronic devices on or near the cookers, even when they are switched off (in case they are accidentally turned on).

11:30 - 9:30 (LO 9:00) (everyday)
(02) 2777-2711
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station (Blue line) Exit 2
台北市大安區光復南路280巷30號 
No.30, Lane 280, Guangfu S. Rd., Da-an District


Sunday, 23 November 2014

Night Markets & Shaved Ice

Night markets are an important part of Taiwanese culture, entrenched in the national psyche. Some markets focus on food, usually small snacks, called xiao chi (,literally "small eats"), some on shopping, some on entertainment and most a mix of all. For many Taiwanese a visit to a nightmarket is a regular social outing, enjoyed with friends, family and all, especially in smaller towns and cities. Tell a Taiwanese person that you haven't yet visited a night market and they'll probably bind you hand and foot and drag you to one, unfortunately most likely the infamous Shilin Night Market.

Nanya Night Market

However, while a part of me appreciates the more food and community-based focus of Taiwanese night markets (as opposed, say, to the rampant consumerism in the posh shopping malls in Japan, not that Tiawan doesn't have its share of them as well), let me confess that I do not enjoy night markets, especially the ones which focus on food. While many have a single vegetarian stall, night market food is generally meat heavy, and even the vegetarian food is generally fairly bland, which is hardly surprising for food served up in a hurry from such a cramped, outdoor environment. Add to that a lack of running water, and I simply don't get the appeal of eating there as opposed to a clean, functional restaurant. And as for entertainment I personally can't find much of value in many of the activities. Fishing is unfortunately a common night market activity for children (the fish are returned to their tiny pool after the fun is over, but probably don't enjoy the whole experience much, or their life between markets). Nonetheless I'd still recommend a visit to at least one while visiting Taiwan, so here are a few notes and suggestions for if and when you do.


Shilin Night Market?

Shilin Night Market

The Shilin night market is Taiwan's most famous, however like Taipei 101 and the National Palace Museum, I think it's grossly overrated, literally so in many ways. (I do recommend most people visit the other two, but get them over with as early in the day as possible and move on to something more meaningful). Name any body part of any exotic animal and you'll probably find it at Shilin Night Market, boiled, deep fried or mixed into an omelet. There used to be a vegetarian stall at Shilin's old location, but it doesn't seem to have survived the market's most recent move to its current basement. Add to that the fact that it's underground, so the stench of unrefrigerated and deep-fried animal parts has nowhere to diffuse to, and it's far from my favourite spot to enjoy some fried noodles (though the old lady's dumplings at the old location were surprisingly good, all considering). If you do get dragged to the Shilin Night Market I recommend going on a stomach which isn't too full (lest you lose your last meal) or too empty (as it'll be a while before you next find food, or want to). And it's hard to even fight your way through the crowds shopping for junk just to reach the food section, for which the market is most famous.


Vegetarian Food Stall near Shilin Night Market

If you do still feel like eating afterwards then the nearest vegetarian stall open that late that I am aware of is outside 312 Danan Road, a short walk from the night market.Choose your own foods and they'll fry them for you - typical night market style. I haven't tried it myself (as I try not to eat deep fried food at that time of night).




Late Meal?
An interesting spinoff of the night market culture here is that most restaurants close early, so if you're hungry after about eight oclock you're either headed to a night market or a convenience store. Of my trips to night markets, most are simply because they are the only thing open (besides the nearest convenience store).

Shaved Ice

These servings should all be vegan except the small containers of 'pudding' along the back row. Nanya Night Market (see below).

One common type of food sold at night markets in shaved ice (bao bing, 刨冰) which originated from Japan (known there as kakigori) and was made popular during the Japanese administration of Taiwan last century. Ice is shaved from a large chunk using a kind of converted drill press, and to which customers choose to add a number of toppings. Most are either boiled beans and grains, or sweetened fruits, either as jelly or jam. As far as I am aware the jellied fruits are all vegan, which I understand is usually set with pectin or agar from seaweed.


The shaved ice is placed on top of this, before it's drowned in syrup.

The mixture is then usually drowned in a very rich syrup (perhaps not one for someone watching their calorie intake) but sometimes a mixture of fruit and condensed milk is used. Also some serve pudding, which of course contains milk. While ice is generally a suspect for making people sick the world over, but I've never heard of this being a problem in Taiwan, but if you've come straight from a country with pristine tap water it might not be your ideal first dessert.


Shaved ice as it looks after the ice has been crushed.

My favourite?

My favourite night market is actually in Banciao, a short but not very pleasant walk from Camp David Hotel (a good budget hotel). It's known as both the Nanya Street Night Market (though it's actually on Nanya East Road) and also as the Nanya Tourist Night Market, but don't expect to see many other tourists there. The vegetarian stall does a few vegetarian dishes, but you'll need to specify that you don't want fake meat, and the curry is also likely to contain dairy products. A better bet is that they do a good range of shaved ice. The owner / chef is very happy to serve foreigners, and demonstrate how he makes all the ingredients by hand.


The owner of the vegetarian stall at the Nanya night market after demonstrating how shaved ice is made.
Your favourite?
However, I believe that the best night market you can visit in Taiwan is the one you stumble on in that small town you just decided to stop over at, perhaps in Southern Taiwan or the East Coast, where you're the only foreigner there. You might just find that there's a vegetarian stall, and that the bewildered owner is  happy to cook you up some dumplings. And you may even prove your fine shooting skills (at balloons) or become a master at pinball, which will be sure to win a fine piece of junk fresh out of a sweatshop in Guangzhou to carry around for the rest of your trip. Then you can truly say that you've experienced the best of night markets in Taiwan.


Monday, 17 November 2014

Hualien


Hualien Station area

Hualien is a popular getaway city from Taipei, with most tourists (domestic and foreign) using it as a gateway to Taroko Gorge. For information on transport, accommodation, sights, hiking trails, please see my Formosa Guide pages on Hualien and Taroko Gorge.

Don't arrive in Hualien late and hungry. I arrived after 8pm and wandered around in the dark and rain looking for restaurants on Google Maps which were closed or shut down. I found a few choose-your-own-food-for-the-deep-frier-type places, but opted for a 7-11 meal. If coming from Taipei in the evening get a take-out meal from Minder Vegetarian (in the train station) and eat it on the train.

City Home
Due to the ever-growing influx of tourists visiting to see the gorge, the hotel situation in Hualien is pretty dire, with a bed and your own tiny bathroom difficult to find for under 1000NT (or double that during the weekends). There are a few hostels, of varying quality, which can be found online, and several hotels scattered around the train station, but you may be lucky to find clean sheets on many of them.

City Home, Hualien

I highly recommend staying at the all-vegan City Home. At 2000NT per night (weeknights) it's moderately expensive for Taiwan, however its spotless, spacious, tastefully decorated rooms, combined with a simple but delicious breakfast the next morning - guaranteed all vegan - make it well worth considering the price. It sells itself as a 'hostel' but it's more like a boutique hotel. If you will have just one night of luxury in Taiwan then consider making it at City Home. They also have larger rooms with more beds for families or travelling groups.

Double room, City Home (Hualien)

City Home use to be attached to a Loving Hut, where breakfast was served the next morning. Unfortunately the Loving Hut has since been closed, but breakfast is delivered from the other nearby Loving Hut in the morning. It's a simple Taiwanese-style breakfast, but a perfectly satisfying start to a day hiking in Taroko Gorge. A menu is provided at check-in, and guests choose what they want the next morning.


City Home breakfast delivery.

Prices at City Home double in the weekend, as is standard for Hualien. So it's important to book ahead for a weekday, which brings the added benefit of seats on trains and fewer visitors to Taroko Gorge (or almost anywhere else you're going).

Unfortunately City Home is about 2km from the train station, so it requires a taxi if carrying luggage. Unfortunately the Loving Hut is about 2km away from both. All routes are walkable, or cheap taxi fares.
 
Loving Hut

Hualien Loving Hut curry and smoothie

As always the Loving Hut offers probably the healthiest, quite possibly the least expensive and certainly the most trustworthy vegan meal in Hualien. This is the place to stock up on sandwiches or snack food for a trip into Taroko Gorge - you'll be glad you did later, even if they're a bit past their best. If you are staying at Tianxiang (or elsewhere in the Gorge) I would take a day's worth, and keep them in the fridge at your hostel or hotel. While not the healthiest meal, the carbohydrates will be burned on the road, and the plastic packaging can be easily folded up and stored until you find a rubbish bin (few and far between in Taroko Gorge).


These simple takeaway lunch items are a godsend when hiking in Taroko Gorge.

Food is typical Loving Hut fare, also at typical prices of about about 100NT per dish. They also serve a range of smoothies and hot drinks, great for fuelling up before a day or three's hiking. There is an attached shop with an excellent range of groceries, but most visitors are likely to be going hiking in the gorge and moving on, so it's not the place to stock up unless you live there.


Loving Hut groceries.

Website
Phone 038 566 353
Monday - Thursday: 6:30am - 2:30pm
Friday - Sunday: 6:30am - 8:30pm


Chang Chun Teng



The second-best option is the all-you-can-eat Chang Chun Vegetarian restaurant. This is like Hualien's humbler version of Taipei's Evergreen Vegetarian restaurant in Taipei (which I no longer recommend), or any other all-you-can-eat buffet, but it's simpler and cheaper (at 200NT per person). It serves a generous range of traditional Taiwanese food, including soups and desserts, but does not offer the western style desserts or drinks (including coffee) that the larger buffets in Taipei or Kaohsiung do.

Chang Chun Buffet spread, Hualien

As always at non-vegan restaurants in Taiwan, the staff tried to help when I told them I didn't eat dairy products, and took me round telling me not to eat items with cheese, but passing over fake meat, mayonnaise salad dressing and even buttered bread! So like at most non-vegan restaurants in Taiwan you're on your own to figure out what's vegan, so all bread, fake meat and milky/creamy dressings should be assumed to contain dairy products. There's still plenty to eat though, and if you need a good meal (besides the Loving Hut) before a day or two of trekking then this will fit the bill.

No. 22, Fu'an Rd, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970
花蓮市富安路22路
Lunch: 11am - 2pm
Dinner:  5pm - 8pm
Closed: second and fourth Monday of each month.
Phone: 03 856 9069
No website, Happycow page


Zhai Pu Vegetarian Restaurant

Zhu Pai Vegetarian Restaurant

Zhuai Pai (齋舖素食館) is the place to come for a quick, cheap meal near the train station. It's a typical Taiwanese buffet, not the best, but not half bad for a small buffet in a small city, a short walk from Chang Chun. If you are on a budget and just need a filling meal this is the place to come. It would also be possible to take a bin dang (lunchbox) with you as an alternative to the Loving Hut sandwiches, but I find these meals don't keep so well as sandwiches (especially once dried and sauced-based foods mix), must be carried upright, and will leave you with a dirty container to carry around until you find a rubbish bin, which are few and far between in Taroko Gorge.

Zhu Pai Vegetarian, 130NT

857 Zhongshan Road
花蓮市中山路857號
03 846 5858
No website, Happycow page



Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Shuiwen Kaiten Sushi Restaurant


Shuiwen (水問蔬食園) is a vegetarian kaiten-sushi restaurant in Taipei.  Kaiten sushi are the famous sushi restaurants in Japan (and now the world over) in which customers select their dishes from a conveyor belt. In rural Japan (or rather most of Japan outside the main centres) these are often the only places to find (hopefully) vegan food, but there's always the risk of fish flakes and various other additives. So this restaurant beats any in Japan for vegan sushi.

This is only about half of the restaurant. It was a rather long conveyor belt, and a tiny kitchen producing it all, so it must run to Japanese efficiency.
In Japan plates are colour coded according to cost. Since vegan options are generally considered snacks, a vegan meal is often absurdly cheap, and I've sometimes wondered if staff just think I'm being a cheap foreigner. Shuiwen takes an interesting twist on this: plates are colour coded according to vegetarian status: green for vegan (of course), white for lacto, yellow for ovo and red for lacto-ovo. All plates cost 30NT.

This poster explains the colour coding (green for vegan).

Dishes are preceded by a plate with a label, but it's not really necessary to understand what they are. The green plates are vegan, and from there it's just a case of choosing what you like the look of.




As in Japan, ginger, soy sauce and wasabi are free (help yourself as the ginger comes around).

Some dishes were disturbingly like 'real' sushi.



Most common (vegetarian) Japanese favourites were there.



And some more Taiwanese dishes were also on offer.

Not so Japanese: these radish cakes are a traditional Taiwanese favourite.

Some dishes which must be eaten straight after they are made, or must be eaten hot (including the radish cake above) need to be ordered. Take a peg from a bowl in front, and attach the peg to a piece of cardboard as it comes around, or just add it to the saucer.



A little while later, your dish will be delivered to your plate. I assume they are batch-made, so they may take some time. So be sure to keep track of how much you have ordered.

A little while later your meal will be delivered.

They also serve some (more Taiwanese-style) desserts.

This passion-fruit jelly was a delicious conclusion to my meal.

Be sure to always take the dishes with their plate (even if it seems unnecessary) and keep your plates beside you, as they are used to count how much you eat to determine your bill. Plastic lids, however, can be placed on these stacks to clear your table as you go.




At about a dollar a dish, prices are very reasonable. On my visit I'd hardly eaten all day, so I had an absolute feast for 390NT, but for a 'normal' person under normal circumstances about half that would probably be sufficient.

Thirteen plates was a feast for one person.

Hours and Contact Information

Phone: 02 2515 1615
Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 11:30 - 20:00 (closed Monday)
Address: 台北市中山區松江路275號B1
Zhongshan area, Songjiang Road, number 271 (basement)

To get to Shuiwen, take the new orange line to XingTian Temple Station. Take exit 3, turn right and it's a couple of doors down. The restaurant is well sign-posted, and stairs lead down to the basement. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Upcomming Event: Taitung Eco-Working Holiday

Taiwan's East Coast is beautiful, but (fortunately or unfortunately) often inaccessible for tourists on short itineraries without their own transport. It hosts a multitude of flora and fauna, and is home to some of Taiwan's indigenous populations. events

Image from the TEIA website.

While during my travels there I've always found locals very friendly and welcoming (like everywhere in Taiwan), in recent years there have been moves toward unsustainable commercial development on the coast, including a controversial highway extension through a delicate coastal ecosystem and a large hotel complex (Mirimar Resort Village, no relation to the shopping centre in Taipei) for which construction began without permits, and was cancelled only after the suicide of a local campaigner.

The Taiwan Environmental Information Association is a non-profit organisation which supports the large environmental movement in Taiwan by producing and disseminating information. They are organising an 'Eco-Working Holiday' in Taitung (Taidong) from August 2nd (this Saturday) to August 6th (Wednesday). This program offers a unique opportunity to learn about the  East Coast from local indigenous people, assist with hands-on environmental work (beach cleanup), learn traditional indigenous skills and perhaps most importantly, promote environmentally conscious tourism instead of five-star hotels which, along with the traffic they will bring, are likely to have dire effects on the environment and local communities.

I think this photo, which I took from the roadside on a scooter trip several years
ago, is probably a few km south of Fukafudak.

I'm always reluctant to promote non-vegan events, however positive they may be in other respects, however I also consider it important that vegans support other related movements, of which the environment is certainly important. While unfortunately the food provided includes "sustainable seafood", I personally know the organiser, and am assured that vegans will be well catered for. The "Fisheries simulation game" is simply an interactive group simulation of commercial fisheries to show their effects on fish populations. 



Fudafudak is the Amis (aboriginal) name of the coastal town at which the beach
cleanup will take place. It is also known in Chinese as Cihting / 刺桐.
View Fudafudak in a larger map


I highly recommend this program to anyone who would like to visit and contribute positively to the environment and people of Taiwan's beautiful East Coast. Contact information can all be found on the TEIA website

Sunday, 20 April 2014

iVegan: Taiwan's First Vegan Supermarket


iVegan is a few minutes walk from Wanlong Station

 iVegan is Taiwan's first all-vegan supermarket. If you live in Taipei it's your one-stop shop for all your grocery needs, including fresh fruit and veggies, packaged goods, frozen foods, fresh baking, cleaning and body care products and even housewares.





iVegan opened its doors in August 2013, but I only made it for my first visit in April 2014, a fleeting visit before I left for the airport. I was expecting a small grocery store, but found a large, busy supermarket.




I had just enough time to whip around with my camera and stock up on Taiwanese tea (expensive and hard to find in Japan) and enough green curry paste to last me until I next return to Taiwan. Even in my short and rather limited shopping spree, it was most enjoyable, if a little strange (almost unnerving) to not need to check the ingredients of anything. It just didn't feel right to not have to check the curry paste for shrimp.

iVegan is in the basement of a mostly residential area, but it's well-signposted and just a hop, skip and a jump from Wanlong Station, just six stops from Taipei Main Station on the Green MRT line.

In such a fleeting visit I didn't get to ask the staff much about the supermarket, but the photos and title should speak for themselves/

Organic Foods
iVegan has a small organic selection with a wide assortment of products.




I'd never seen some of these products, like liquid amino acids.

Dairy Alternatives
In the past imported dairy alternatives were difficult to find, except for locally-produced soymilk and tofu. I used to buy imported soymilk from Jasons grocery store (under Taipei 101 and in Hsinchu) but these soymilk outings are no longer necessary.

I used to bring mayonnaise back from Japan.
Indian Foods
iVegan sells both frozen and packaged Indian goods.
frozen Indian foods
packaged Indian snacks

Baked Goods
iVegan sells pizza from Veggie Joy and baked products from Fresh Bakery.

various frozen products, including pizza from Veggie Joy

baked goods from Fresh Bakery.

Cleaning and Body Care Products
All products sold at iVegan are strictly vegan, so far as they don't contain any animal ingredients. However the store takes a pragmatic line on animal testing, since many customers off the street will expect to be able to buy conventional cleaners (at conventional prices) and it's difficult to find out about animal testing, especially of third-party ingredients (which most cleaners are made from) and for locally-produced products. IVegan avoids products from the big companies with the worst reputations (Unilever, Proctor & Gamble etc) and of course they support non animal-tested products as much as possible, but they do sell products from local suppliers as long as they don't contain animal ingredients. The store aims to improve its animal testing policy in the future, and welcomes suggestions on how it can achieve this. I didn't specifically check, but I'm sure there are enough products from reputable vegan suppliers that buying everything non-animal tested would not be a problem.

iVegan has a large variety of vegan (and cruelty-free) body care products.

iVegan Opening Hours
07:00 - 22:00 (every day)
Phone: 02 2935 0900

To get to iVegan take the subway to Wanlong Station (six stops from Taipei Main station on the green line). It's a 250m walk from Exit 1. Car parking is available and according to Google it's about a 20 minute drive from Taipei Main Station.


There are plenty of signs to point you in the right direction from Wanlong Station, Exit 1.


About Animals 



Near iVegan is a new(ish) bar / restaurant About Animals. While many vegan business choose not to include vegan or animal-friendly references in the name to attract non-vegan customers, which often makes good sense on many levels, it's also refreshing to see a business which does, and nothing can be more direct than the name of this restaurant.

Wasabi Burger from About Animals

About Animals is run by animal rights activists, and according to its Happycow listing it also serves as a space for activist photography and events. It is the place to go to meet animal rights activists in Taipei.




About Animals feels very much like a typical, western pub / burger bar, making it one of its kind in Taiwan. Meals are simple but delicious, and for many foreigners or Taiwanese who've lived abroad it will very much be a taste of home. At a little over 300NT for a meal and drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) it's certainly on the expensive side for Taipei, but still good value. Note that About Animals is quite small, so it's probably better to stock up at iVegan after your meal, especially on a busy night.




About Animals is also a hop skip and a jump from Wanlong Station, but from Exit 2 (the other side of Roosevelt Rd from iVegan). Unfortunately to get there from the station you'll need to walk past a traditional butcher's shop to get there, and I saw whole pigs heads on sale. Perhaps it's a good reminder for non-vegans to go vegan after they visit About Animals.

About Animals Opening Hours
Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun 14:00 - 23:30
 

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