Vegan-ing out in Tokyo

By which I mean eating out. I needed at least two weeks to get round the vegan restaurants in Tokyo and I didn’t have that, so this is just a smattering. Ohhh the glory of vegan food in Tokyo. One note: the servings all over Japan are quite small, for this reason I haven’t given any of them particularly good ‘value’ ratings except ‘T’s’, which is significantly cheaper. Most came in around 1000jpy-1400jpy for a main, and 500-700jpy for a dessert.

Cori Vegan Foodstand

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cori2This is one of my favourite places that ate at in Tokyo, in fact so good that I decided to go there for my birthday. Luckily it was open then, but not the next time I went there. However, as you’ll find out later, going somewhere and finding out they’re closed has become a theme of my Japan trip. The spicy veggie plate was my favourite thing (but not spicy). You can also buy organic berry wine here, which is delicious and has large berries floating in it. It’s in a place called Commune 246 which is a really cool area to just hang out, and especially if you’re travelling or eating on your own it’s also a good place to meet people. You’re looking at 1000yen for a smallish plate of food, although smallish plate should be assumed for all the meals in Japan, they’re not big servers.

Do or don’t visit?: Do

Taste – 4/5

Value – 4/5

Atmosphere – 5/5

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Hanada Rosso

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I power-walked here and made it 5 minutes before last orders, and it was worth it. It’s on the pricier end but it makes up for it with flavour, and then some. This is one of the best burger patties I’ve had so far, it was rich, moist and tomato-y. It also wasn’t a fast food burger, which I keep encountering in Kyoto, much to my surprise. The cheesecake was good, but a little too baked for my liking. Pure’s cheesecake definitely has the edge, and it’s maybe only a 10 or 15 walk from Hanada Rosso. The interior was nice but there was nothing that made it special, and it was a little too cafeteria for me.

Do or don’t visit?: Do

Taste – burger 5/5, cake 3/5

Value – 3.5/5

Atmosphere – 4/5

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Pure Cafe

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This is attached to the Aveda store which, as you might guess, means that it’s expensive. It packs out around lunchtime and you might have to wait for a table, but it’s worth it. I had the special, which was a soy meat dish, and it was okay but not exceptional. It came as a set and the soup was pretty good, too, but oniony so if that’s not your thing it’s best to check before ordering. I heard their tempeh is excellent, and I’d have liked to try a few other things on the menu, too. The cheesecake is definitely where they shine: it was delicious, and has a texture very similar to what I remember real cheesecake being like.

Do or don’t visit?: Do

Taste – main 3/5, cake 5/5

Value – 4/5

Atmosphere – 4/5

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T’s Tantan

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I may get shot for this by the T’s Tantan groupies but… I was not a T’s Tantan fan. Maybe it’s after a year in Taiwan, but the noodle soup I ordered just didn’t have any wow factor for me. It’s in Tokyo station, though, which makes it very convenient until they randomly close and tell me I can’t come in (I was trying to give it a second chance, fate was against me). It’s good for a cheap, fast meal that’s pretty tasty, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to eat. It’s a bit difficult to find: follow the signs for the Keiyo line and eventually you’ll see it on your right.

Do or don’t visit?: If you’re going through station, do

Taste – 3/5

Value – 5/5

Atmosphere – 3/5

Happy Cow

Hangout

Hangout

Hungry in Tokyo at 10pm? This is the place head to, last order is 11.30pm and they close at midnight. It’s a Japanese vegan version of a tapas bar, so you order several small plates. The staff were very friendly, and they also offer alcohol. I tried the gyoza, the vegetable rolls, and some fried soy meat things which were excellent. They were all good but quite simple, I especially felt the gyoza I’ve eaten before for less money. I’d order the rolls and the soy meat again, though. The place was cool, but would have felt cooler with more people: it was dead when I went. Maybe I’m just hard to please, or maybe I should have tried more, but for what it is I felt the price tag was a bit hefty. For a meal for two expect to pay around 5000jpy before you start adding drinks.

Do or don’t visit?: Do, but it wouldn’t be my first choice

Taste: 4/5

Value: 3/5

Atmosphere: 3.5/5

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Nagi Shokudo

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I have to admit I really like having to take my shoes off and getting to sit on a raised platform to eat, either cross-legged or with the spaces under the tables. It makes me far more inclined to hang around and get comfortable. This is one of the best places I ate. For the lunch/dinner set pick 3 things off the menu and they add rice and soup. Every small serving was delicious and full of flavour, I particularly liked the okra which was prepared in a way I hadn’t tasted before. I didn’t try their cake, which was a mistake as I now wish I had, as I’ve since been cake eating my way around Japan.

Do or don’t visit?: Do

Taste: 4/5

Value: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Happy Cow

From Earth Cafe OHANA

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Everything here is in Japanese, but you can get by as it’s all vegan. I tried the burger, and my couchsurfing host had a black bean fried thingy – I think it was the special. It was considerably better than the burger, there wasn’t even a comparison to be made. My burger was dry and bland, and I had to ask for ketchup, but the black bean thingy was full of flavour. I tried the cake afterwards which was good, and came with Matcha ice cream. It also came with these odd rice crispy things which periodically appear in Japanese food, and I remain confused about why they were there. The place is also a health food shop, and it’s exceptionally cute.

Do or don’t visit?: Do

Taste: 2/5 for the burger, 4.5/5 for the black bean thingy.

Value: 4/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Happy Cow

Sky High

The cold-pressed juice and green smoothie trend has, no surprise, hit Tokyo and this is one of several juice bars. It’s all vegan, and also offers sandwiches for about 1000jpy. One of my couchsurfing hosts went here and sent me a message, after which I joined him. His message went something along the lines of ‘vegan eating is expensive! I just spent 1800jpy on a juice and a sandwich with some bits of carrots in it.’ The juice was delicious, between 800-1000jpy depending on which you choose (you can also get a large one, which is better value) but I think the sandwiches probably are overpriced and you’d be better off getting a juice then going elsewhere for food. Bear in mind that fruit and veg in Japan is extortionately expensive, so if the juices seem expensive, it would cost you much more to make your own. It’s tiny but friendly and within minutes we were talking to everyone else in the shop.

Do or don’t visit?: For a juice, do

Taste: 5/5

Value: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Happy Cow

VegFru

When T’s Tan Tan failed me, I set out on a marathon mission to find somewhere else open, fast. A marathon because I was carrying all my possessions on my back (I was heading to Hiroshima) and  they were heavy, and I was hungry. And it was very, very hot. I got lost on the way, and ended up wandering for twenty minutes more than was necessary. Finally I made it and sat down in a sweaty heap. I ordered the salad set, and was served a very pretty but quite small salad with some warm seedy bread and the standard green smoothie which goes with it. As usual, no English was spoken and the staff looked a little horrified at my large back and dishevelled appearance. It was a decent price and the dressing was delicious, but I wouldn’t say the trip was worth it when there are so many other amazing places to try.

Do or don’t visit?: don’t

Taste: 3/5

Value: 4/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Happy Cow

BONUS

Coffee

If you’re a life starts with coffee person like me, you’ll be relieved to hear that there’s a small chain of coffee shops called Streamers Coffee in the Shibuya/Harajuku area. They do the best soy latte I’ve had so far in Asia, and it’s expensive but worth it. They also do something that seems to be unheard of in Kyoto for coffee shops: they open in the morning, when coffee is needed (8am on weekdays). The Shibuya shop has free wifi for tourists that says it has a 90 minute limit, but they don’t enforce it.

Places I tried to go:

Vespera’s falafel. They were consistently closed. I finally got my falafel fix in Kyoto, but sadly at a veg friendly place not a vegan one.

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Have you been to other places in Tokyo? Or were you blown away where I wasn’t? Let me know in the comments.

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Let us eat [vegan] cake – the definitive guide to cake in Taipei

Taipei is a vegan cake cornucopia. Except for a distinct lack of creamy vegan ice cream (which I will keep mentioning every five minutes until someone changes this) Taipei is amazing for vegan desserts. I barely even ate cake before I came here, because when I went vegan it wasn’t that easy to find. Cake left my life. I stopped needing it, and it stopped needing me. Then I came to Taiwan and the wonderful possibilities of vegan desserts reopened their arms to me.

Here, in a slightly particular but not overly representative order, is where to find a dessert in Taipei.

Fresh Bakery and Cafe

As the flagship vegan bakery in Taipei, and the creator of a constant stream of new inventions and old favourites, Fresh can be nowhere other than at the top of this post. If you can think of it, you can get it here. On my first trip here I was reunited with the favourite cake of my fifteen year old self, Black Forest Gateau, which I first ate when visiting the Black Forest area in Germany. I hadn’t had one since then, much less since becoming vegan, but this is everything I remembered and more.

Recently they’ve also developed a line of tarts, mousses, and mousse tarts. They are beautiful, almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. Ravi, the owner, refuses to tell me what they’re made from. They’re that good.

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Open Mon-Sat 9:00am-9:00pm, call first to preorder pizzas or to check they have a particular cake as the stock is constantly changing. Near Kunyang MRT station, one-minute walk from exit 4. Leave exit 4, cross the road diagonally, turn left and walk for less than a minute.

Soul R. Vegan

One word: waffles. Chocolate waffles, dark chocolate filled waffles, berry waffles, matcha waffles, walnut waffles… so many waffles. A waffle and drink combo set will set you back around 240nt, and when you see the size of them you’ll realise this is a bargain – and they’re piled high with ‘are you sure that’s vegan?’ vegan cream.

I’ve actually stopped ordering mains there, because the waffles are so filling. I just go and eat the dessert. Other sweet things on their menu are a dense, moist brownie, tiramisu, and creme brûlée.

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Mon-Wed 2:30pm-9:00pm, Thu-Sun 11:30am-9:00pm. Close to Zhongxiao Fuxing, exit 1. Leave the exit, turn right then take the first left then follow the road along for about 4 minutes and Soul R is on your right.

Mianto

Michel, the owner of Mianto, is the cupcake queen. She also does slices of cake, but she doesn’t always have it. Favourite cupcake flavours are chocolate, lychee and cranberry and mulberry. Each comes with a generous squirt of whipped cream on top. One cupcake is 65nt.

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Tues – Sun 11:00–21:00, Walk out of Dongmen MRT, Exit 7. Walk straight and turn left on Xinsheng Rd. Continue till you reach the YuanTa bank. That is lane 146, turn left. Continue 50m and see Mianto on the right.

Ooh Cha Cha

For a healthier option, go to Ooh Cha Cha for some raw vegan cheesecake. They have loyalty cards, good coffee and healthy but indulgent drinks to go with it. Flavours are banana swirl, lime cashew, matcha cream, orange chocolate cream, strawberry cream and mocha fudge pie.

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Mon – Fri: 10:00–21:00 Sat – Sun: 10:00–20:00. Walk out of Guting MRT exit 2, take the first right, and you’ll be there 10 seconds later.

About Animals

About Animals brings their cake in from Vegan Heaven, an all vegan patisserie outside Taipei in Yilan county. They have various cakes like banana chocolate pie, and they also sometimes serve vegan macaroons that are good, but similarly priced to regular fancy macaroons: aka, a lot to pay for something that dissolves in your mouth seconds later.

Mon – Thurs: 14:00–22:30 Fri – Sun: 11:00–22:30. Walk out of Wanlong MRT exit 2, and walk past the 7/11 and out onto the street. Turn right, then left, then right at a decorated white stone at about knee height and you’ll be backtracking along a little lane. It’s on your right.

Miss Green

Another all vegan place with beautiful decor, they also have a selection of raw desserts, including a chocolate pie and a coconut pie. Miss Green’s cakes I find to be a little hit or miss. Some are delicious, some curious and noticeably unsweetened.

Sun-Thu 11:00am-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 11:00am-10:00pm. Close to Xinyi Anhe MRT.

Naked Food, Delicious Taipei

An all raw dining experience, Naked Food offers delectable and exquisite raw desserts. My favourite is the strawberry vanilla cheesecake. A slice alone is the price of a meal in most of the places on this list, but when you taste it you’ll know why. Be aware of the 350nt minimum spend, meaning that if you pop in with a friend for a drink each and a piece of cake to share, you’ll be asked to order something else.

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Tues:14:00–20:00 Wed – Fri:12:00–21:00 Sat – Sun: 11:00–21:00. Close to Dongmen MRT exit 7.

Green Bakery

A new kid on the block, Green Bakery is another all vegan bakery and cafe. It’s small and friendly, and serves very reasonably priced cupcakes with a free cup of tea or coffee. Its cupcakes use potato and sweet potato as a cream substitute for the toppings. Curious, but it works. The scones are the best thing there.

10:00~20:00, 15 min walking from Nanjing Sanmin MRT on the Green Line.

Loving Hut

Serving chocolate cake, coffee cake, chocolate orange cake and a few cheesecakes, Loving Hut cake is cheap, cheerful and tasty. The coffee that you can order alongside a slice is delicious, and also a very reasonable price.

The best Loving Hut branch in Taipei with the widest selection is close to Sun-Yan-Sat Memorial Hall, and is open for lunch and dinner.

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Vegan adventures in Hong Kong – Hong Kong Island & Kowloon

“What are you going do in Hong Kong?”

“Eat.”

And eat we did. Goodness food is expensive in Hong Kong compared to Taiwan! There are so many vegan options though, we barely made a dent in the restaurants we wanted to visit. Here’s my rundown of the dos and don’ts for vegans in Hong Kong – these were all in the space of two days, so we didn’t get to try as much as we’d have liked. Our stomachs simply didn’t stretch that big.

Mana – Slow Fast Food (Vegetarian)

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Raw coconut cake

Chocolate Cake Mana

Raw chocolate cake

mana wrap

Gluten free wrap

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with lots of avocado

This is the only place we visited twice (partly because they’re one of the only places open before 12pm on a Monday). They have a fast slow food concept, so you can eat out or dine in. I loved the flatbreads, really generous with the fillings and lots of flavor. The place itself has a really nice atmosphere and a great playlist, and the staff were friendly, helpful and polite. Almost everything is vegan, except for some fillings. The desserts were slightly disappointing – very small slices and the coconut cake tasted like cashews not coconut, I would have preferred it more coconut creamy. It would be nice to have a price difference for the fillings too – for example, the cucumber was the same price as avocado.

Food waste gets turned into compost, and they use paper only packaging and make an effort to recycle. What confused me was that there is only the option of disposable packaging. I would have rather seen less packaging and more re-useable containers. Other than that I loved Mana and will definitely go back if I’m in Hong Kong again.

MTR: Central

Do or don’t visit?: Do

Taste – 4/5

Value – 4/5

Atmosphere – 5/5

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Life Organic Health Cafe (Vegetarian)

The disappointing tofu cake

The disappointing tofu cake, with thighs to show scale

Before we arrived in Hong Kong Life Cafe was highly recommended to me, so when we found it we were both kind of disappointed. The food was a little uninspiring (salads, samosas, falafels, and desserts) and I would have asked about the menu which looked more interesting, but the staff were unfriendly and unapproachable. When we ordered a piece of cake, I thought that they were trying to tell us to go away because they were closed. Turns out she just wasn’t the eye-contact and smiling type.

The only thing I tried was the vegan tofu chocolate cake, but it was bland, expensive and just tasted of tofu – it didn’t encourage me to try more, but maybe I’d go back and try a lunch and the coffee. Maybe. The other customers were friendly and smiley at least.

My other quibble is that their packaging was all disposable and just went in the same trash can – there was no option of sorting for recycling. This disappointed me for somewhere that otherwise claims to be environmentally conscious.

MTR: Central

Do or don’t visit?: Don’t for the desserts, if you try the mains let me know.

Taste – 2/5 for the cake

Value – 3/5

Atmosphere – 3/5

WebsiteHappy Cow

Mana Raw – Wild Juicery

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Celery root ‘vushi’

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Inside Mana Raw

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Collard Wraps

This is a raw branch of Mana just across the street and down a little way from Mana Slow Fast Food. I was (and still am, I think it’s summer coming!) really craving raw food so I talked Josette, my vegan travel companion, into going for lunch. It’s my usual complaint about raw vegan places – small serving sizes. I had the celery root vushi and it was delicious, but there were only 6 pieces. Josette had the collard green wraps, which were a little less creative. I felt like they were something I could have whipped up at home without much thought, which isn’t especially what I go to raw vegan places for – I go for the innovation and creativity they usually bring to their creations. I didn’t get to try the juices or desserts, which was a shame. Overall I would like to see more creativity in their menu.

The staff were really friendly and helpful and we talked for a while. Something curious about all the more ‘trendy’ dining places of Hong Kong is that the menus are only in English, unlike in Taipei where they’re all bilingual. I asked why, and they said that all their customers are Westerners – but the staff are local or Filipino. They told me that there’s a large number of vegans and healthy eaters in Hong Kong. This is very different from Taipei, where there aren’t enough expats alone to keep somewhere like this in business and there are far more locals who eat at the vegan restaurants. Something about this situation in Hong Kong didn’t feel quite right to me after living in Taipei for the past 9 months.

MTR: Central

Do or don’t visit?: Only if you’re craving raw food, but I think there are better raw places we didn’t make it to on this trip.

Taste – 3.5/5

Value – 3/5

Atmosphere – 5/5

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Loving Hut – Wan Chai

BBQ Char Sui steamed buns for breakfast

BBQ Char Sui steamed buns for breakfast

BBQ Char Sui meal set

BBQ Char Sui meal set (with a vegan egg)

Caramel latte, all prettily decorated

Caramel latte, all prettily decorated

'Egg and Cheese' sandwich.

‘Egg and Cheese’ sandwich.

Laksa Soup

Laksa Soup

Happy Cow HK Ice Cream, I dream of this stuff

Happy Cow HK Ice Cream, I dream of this stuff

I told a lie, we went here twice too, once for lunch when we first got to HK and once for breakfast the next day. If I lived nearby I’d go there for breakfast every day (except they only open at 11). If you go, you have to try the Char Sui BBQ Soya Slices. The egg tarts were a little flavourless and I’d have liked more vanilla to give more of a custardy taste, or some lemon to make them more interesting. The coffee was excellent and had a pretty pattern on it, and they do a surprisingly realistic sunny side up egg. The staff were friendly and there was even a live music act when we were first there.

They also stock Happy Cow HK ice cream, which is made from coconut cream and sugar and is amazing. There will be a full blog post about ice cream to follow.

MTR:  MTR Wan Chai Station, Exit A3

Do or don’t visit?: Do

Taste – 4/5

Value – 5/5

Atmosphere – 4.5/5

Website; Happy Cow

Branto Pure Indian Vegetarian

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Masala Dosa

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Idly Vada

Slightly awkward to find as it’s hidden away in an apartment building, we went here for a snack on our way to the light show – we had approximately twenty minutes. I wish we’d had time for a full meal here as it was certainly far less of a disappointment than the light show was. Actually, it wasn’t a disappointment at all. We only had two of the appetisers, a masala dosa that was the hands down winner, and an Idly Vada that was also pretty good. I would have happily stayed and eaten everything vegan they had to offer. It’s somewhere I’ll be going back to. The service was fast and efficient, and the place filled up at dinner time with all the local Indian population, which is always a good sign.

MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui

Do or don’t visit?: Do. Skip the light show and eat here till your stomach puffs out poppadom style.

Taste – 5/5

Value – 5/5

Atmosphere – 4.5/5

Website; Happy Cow

Gaia Veggie Shop

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Taro ‘fish’, a traditional veggie dish

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Fried noodles, with vinegar and sugar to add

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What I call Beef Wellington, because that’s what it tasted like

Hidden away in a large Mirimar (a mall for anyone who doesn’t know), we visited here for dinner later on the same night as the Indian. Their menu is huge, and what’s vegetarian not vegan is clearly marked with an egg symbol next to the dish. I tried the taro fish, the fried noodles with sugar and vinegar, and what was a sort of veganized beef wellington. All strange sounding, but delicious! The prices were very reasonable (not cheap but not too bad) and it came to around 100HKD each for a filling meal. The provided tea, pickles, and a complimentary mung bean dessert. I could happily have gone back and tried different things, too.

MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui

Do or don’t visit?: Do. It’s something more traditional to try while in HK.

Taste – 5/5

Value – 4/5

Atmosphere – 4/5

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…………

We also tried a local place around Sam Shui Po that will appear in the Hong Kong videos on my YouTube channel (search Plant-powered Nomad), a local breakfast place and a dessert place. I don’t have the names or addresses of them, but there was some good food! A handy reminder that asking locals and leaving the comfort of Happy Cow is always good, too.

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Complimentary Cantonese curried wheat gluten (seitan)

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Black fungus soup

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Tradtional breakfast of rice tubes in peanut sauce.

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Sweet potato and ginger dessert

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Vegan chicken satay. It was delicious.

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Mango sago

We also tried the Lok Chai Tea House but it was 60HKD each for tea! The Dim Sum looked good but was 40HKD for each small plate, so we put the menu down and scurried out to spend our pennies elsewhere.

As a final note, the supermarkets in HK are awesome for vegans and you can get a lot of the Western vegan food like Tofurkey and Field Roast that isn’t available in most of Asia. Again, check out my YouTube in a few days for a video tour. There are so many more places we didn’t get to that I want to try next time I’m in Hong Kong, as usual if you’ve been anywhere you love, let me know.

Happy eating!

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Eating vegan in Taipei: Taipei’s top 5

If you’re vegan, you’ve been there. Watching with baited breath as your omni dining companion takes their first bite of vegan food at the restaurant you suggested. Will it create a good impression of vegan food, or drive them straight back into the arms of bacon?

Here, in no particular order, are my personal top 5 restaurants in Taipei to veganize your friends with.

Ooh Cha Cha

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Left to right: Garlic hummus sandwich, mocha and banana chocolate ‘cheesecakes’ and the green juices – GoGo Goji and Very Berry.

I love this place, and I’ve just started on my third loyalty card (yes, they do loyalty cards! Although only after I’d already spent a fortune there). Run by Spencer and Mai, who are hopefully expanding at some stage (not sure if this is fact or my wishful thinking) it’s quite a small and often noisy and crowded cafe.

They do healthy green smoothie/juice mixes, sandwiches, macrobiotic bowls, and raw vegan cheesecakes that are utterly amazing. They also do some pretty tasty hot drinks that often get forgotten about.

My regular order: Balsamic Mushroom or Garlic Hummus sandwich; GoGo Goji drink; Mocha Fudge Pie.

Directions: walk out of Guting MRT exit 2, take the first right, and you’ll be there 10 seconds later. If you go around lunch (12-2) or dinner (5-7) expect to wait. They get busy! They’ll take your number and call when there’s a seat available.

Facebook; Phone – 02 2367 7133; Website

About Animals

About Animals Wasabi Burger <3

About Animals Wasabi Burger

This one’s a little more out of the way than the others, but it’s close to iVegan so you can pick up some groceries afterwards. It’s also that last to close, as they serve food till 10 most nights. About Animals is my no.1 burger place of Taipei. Actually, their wasabi burger is so good, I’ve never ordered anything else when I’ve been there… it will satisfy vegans and omnis alike, just make sure you order a side with it if you’re a big eater. They serve burgers, hotpots, rice dishes, and various deserts. They also have beer in the fridge, and animal rights/gay rights/everything rights postcards and labels on the walls. They have good music and a good atmosphere to chill out with friends and enjoy a burger.

My regular order: the wasabi burger; fried yams; banana chocolate pie.

Directions: walk out of Wanlong MRT exit 2, and walk past the 7/11 and out onto the street. Turn right, then left, then right at a decorated white stone at about knee height and you’ll be backtracking along a little lane. It’s on your right. They’re open later than most places, so they’re good if you get hungry after 8.

Happy Cow; Phone – +886-983683024

Herban Kitchen and Bar

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Vegan brunch – tofu scramble and the only vanilla cashew nut milk latte in Taipei!

This is the only vegetarian place to feature on this list, but it’s also the only place that does a good vegan brunch and nut milk lattes. If and when Naked food does a nut milk option then their latte will take the vegan latte in Taipei prize, until then it’s held by Herban. They will also add syrups, which also not many places have as an option.

They’re a little pricey (around 230-250nt for a main, plus 10% service charge) but the decor is amazing and they have outdoor seating. They’re also working on a vegan dessert – if you go in, ask them about it and spread the word that it would be popular.

My regular order: the tofu scramble and a cashew vanilla latte for brunch, the raw pad thai for dinner. They provide unlimited rosemary and lime water on the tables that’s delicious, so I don’t ever buy a drink apart from the latte.

Directions: walk out of Zhongxiao Dunhua exit 8 and walk straight on till you reach the crossing, then cross to the other side of the street. Walk straight on and take the first right at the family mart, then it’s right again almost straight after. It’s very easy to miss so look for a small sign on the wall and then walk down the tiny alley and you’ll see it on your right at the end.

It’s very popular, so if you’re there for dinner try and book a table a few days in advance or be prepared to wait, especially on the weekend.

Facebook; Phone – +886287737033

Vege Creek

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Vege Creek with Vermicelli Noodles

I’ve had a love affair with vege creek since I moved to Taipei. It’s cheaper and more convenient than the other places on this list (although still pricey for what it is). You walk in, take a basket, and select vegetables, mock meats and leafy greens from where they’re around the walls, suspended in bowls. Then you select a noodle card, hand them your basket, and they boil it up for you in about 5 minutes in a medicinal broth. You can add spice and condiments to your own taste.

The best thing about Vege Creek is that it’s so fresh. You see everything that goes in and 5 minutes later you have a hot meal. A filling bowl will cost you between 190 and 230nt, depending on how hungry you are.

Directions: there are 2 branches, one by S.Y.S Memorial Hall, and one in the 24 hour Zhongxiao Dunhua Eslite on B1. To get to the S.Y.S one, leave exit one and walk on, then follow the street as it curves round. Take the fourth right and it’s on your left. To get to Eslite, walk out of Zhongxiao Dunhua exit 5 and walk straight on. Cross the large crossing and you’ll see it on the other side.

Facebook; Phone – +886227781967

Mianto

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Left to right: Chana Masala, chocolate cupcake and Miantochino, tomato and mushroom pasta.

Mianto is my favorite lazy Saturday/Sunday place if I want to go somewhere and work for a few hours. They have plenty of space so I don’t feel like I’m taking up valuable customer room, they’re really friendly, and their food is good and filling. They do pasta, curries and cupcakes/cakes. The pasta servings are more generous than the curries, so if you’re hungry go for that. They also have a pizza. Prices are around 250nt.

See my complete review here.

My regular order: the mushroom and tomato pasta, a cupcake and a Miantochino. If I’m feeling cheeky I ask for some of the vegan ham to be added to my pasta. Mmm…

Directions: Walk out of Dongmen MRT, Exit 7. Walk straight and turn left on Xinsheng Rd. Continue till you reach the YuanTa bank. That is lane 146, turn left. Continue 50m and see Mianto on the right

Facebook; Phone – +886223219749

Honorable Mentions:

Miss Green

Miss Green is by Xinyi, and does burgers and raw desserts among other things. The interior design is worth a trip for, but the portions are too small for the price and you’ll leave hungry. Both omnivores I’ve been there with commented that they could do it better and one went away and ate fried chicken afterwards because he was still hungry – not a good recommendation at all! The desserts are okay but lack flavour, same as the burgers.

Taste – 3/5

Value – 3/5

Atmosphere – 5/5

Fresh Bakery and Cafe

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Left to right: Black forest gateau and chocolate banana cake; breads fresh from the oven; mousse bomb pie.

I love Fresh, and I go there a lot. You should definitely visit if you’re in Taipei. The only reason they didn’t make the top 5 is that they’re a bakery, not a sit down and eat place, although you can have a seat and they’ll make you feel welcome. I recommend the banana chocolate cake and the bacon and cheese bread. They’re also very reasonably priced.

Taste – 5/5

Value – 5/5

Atmosphere – 3/5 (but 5/5 for friendliness)

Naked Food Taipei

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Left to right: ChimChurri pizza, cauliflower, tomato, marinated onion, tree nut cheese; Chocolate and oat berry squares.

Another one that just missed out on the top 5. This is Taipei’s first raw food vegan place, but their prices are high and their portions are small. You’re going for the experience, more than the food. My omni friend asked me the other day if I’d been there, just to complain to me about the size of the portions for the price! Probably  not somewhere I’d take a non-vegan if I was looking to introduce them to vegan food. Find my full review here.

Taste – 5/5

Value – 3/5

Atmosphere – 5/5

Loving Hut

The S.Y.S Memorial Hall Loving Hut has been unanimously voted the best in Taipei – it has hotpots, cakes, and bibimbaps amongst other things. The food is good but not exceptional, and the decor is like every other Loving Hut I’ve been to here – slightly clinical, with a strong overtone of Grand Supreme Master. It’s a place to take other vegans, unless you reassure the omnivore you’re taking there that you’re not trying to induct them into a cult.

Taste – 4/5

Value – 4/5

Atmosphere – 2.5/5

Delicious Addiction

Chinese knotgrass noodle soup

Chinese knotgrass noodle soup

Cheap and easy, Delicious Addiction serves traditonal Taiwanese food like noodles and soups. Their daily meal set will cost you 70ntd and leave you full up and satisfied. Their noodle soups are like Veggie Creek, but half the price. Two of my friends here swear it’s their favorite place in Taipei, but it’s not somewhere I personally would take someone for a meal. The decor is basic and it’s a quick meal place, not a fine dining experience. It’s also a little out of the way, as it’s near Dingxi MRT.

Taste – 4.5/5

Value – 5/5

Atmosphere – 3/5 (again, 5/5 for friendliness)

I could keep going, but these are just my personal choices. There’s so much choice in Taipei for vegans! If you live in or have visited Taipei and have your own opinion on which should make the top 5, let me know in the comments below. Happy eating!

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Got soy milk? A guide to vegan lattes in Taipei

I’m a coffee shop dweller. Alcohol could disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow and I wouldn’t care (I might even rejoice) but if coffee disappeared… I’d be a little sad. More specifically, I like a really good latte, because sometimes black coffee just doesn’t cut it. I can count the number I’ve had in the last 8 months on one hand.

This surprised me – it’s not something I expected from Asia. I grew up being told that in general Asians are lactose intolerant and therefore not much milk is drunk here. Taiwan is part of the ‘non-milking zone,’ countries that traditionally do not consume animal milk or dairy products, despite plenty of cows, buffaloes, and goats. The non-milking zone covers all of Southeast Asia from Burma eastwards including China, Korea, and Japan. The zone ends with the dairy-consuming Mongols to the north and the Tibetans and Indians to the west. Some 85% of the people in the non-milking zone above the age of three years have low levels of the intestinal enzyme lactase that breaks down the lactose in animal milks. This is not exclusive to East Asia: some 60% of the Western world are also lactose intolerant, and this percentage rises when people stop consuming dairy and the body is given a chance to wean. It is not just humans who cannot digest lactose, the condition is also prevalent in other land mammals (cats, for instance). An inability to digest lactose is more common than not: animal milk is intended for baby animals only, to assist growth in the early years of life. Beyond then it is not designed for continued consumption.

In fact, I heard somewhere that Westerners smell like milk because so little in drunk in Asia. The irony? The children I work with drink so much milk, they smell milky to me – I haven’t touched dairy in two and a half years. The dairy industry has got it’s claws into Taiwan, and it’s not letting go.

“But soy is everywhere!” I hear you cry. Soy oil for cooking, soy based ink on packaging, soy desserts, tofu in everything, soy sauce, soy milk from the breakfast bars. So why in stinky tofu’s name can’t I get a soy latte when I walk into a coffee shop? I think my (also vegan) friend hit the nail on the head when she described the attitude difference towards soy milk in the East vs. the West. She told me “they think of it as a juice, not a milk, and drink it like they’d drink orange juice. Why would you put orange juice in your tea?”

This is shown in the language, too. Cow’s milk is 牛奶 niu2nai3, literally ‘cow milk’. To ask for soy milk, the character is 豆漿 Dou4jiang1. Dou4 means bean, usually soy bean, and jiang1 is a thick liquid. Doujiang is first referenced in China in A.D. 82 in the Lun Heng by Wang Ch’ung, although this may be the thicker liquid version, before it was strained into a milk like consistency. (Read more on the history of soy milk here, it’s pretty interesting.) For decades in Taiwan it has been a common as a breakfast food, and large pots are often seen outside breakfast shops. In the 1960s and 1970s it started becoming popular as a soft drink. In 7/11s today you can find bottles of sweetened soy milk with flavours like chocolate and red bean. The problem is… Most have regular milk in them, too.

Like in China, soy milk is drunk as the soft drink of choice in Taiwan. In most small restaurants, for instance, only soy milk is offered in the fridges. In China this has phenomenon has socialist roots. The Asian Wall Street Journal (14 June 1983) published a front page article blasting Coca Cola, which was growing in popularity, for being unhealthy and filled with sugar, caffeine and phosphoric acid. It was also far more expensive than soy milk, and cutting the amount they imported in favour of locally produced soy milk boosted China’s economy.

Almond milk is popular in Taiwan too, usually in powdered form. Walk through any nightmarket and you’ll soon find the sickly sweet smell. However, almond milk in Taiwan 90% of the time also contains milk powder – that or you’ll be paying through the nose for it. I can only assume this is to both lower the cost, and given it a creamier consistency. The moral of the story is beware: if you’re buying soy milk somewhere in Asia, check first that it’s not got cow juice lurking in its depths. To ask – “you3 niu2nai3 ma?” listen for the reply – “you3” (has) or “mei3 you3” (doesn’t have).

So where can I get a coffee?

This isn’t a top 6 list. This is an only 6 list, more or less.

1. Starbucks

I used to avoid Starbucks in the UK, but they’re everywhere here, the staff are friendly, and the soy milk is the same as I use at home – so vegan safe. The coffees aren’t the best, and they’re certainly not healthy, but it’s somewhere to sit and have a coffee when I’m on my lunch break. If you don’t feel like coffee, their matcha green tea latte is creamy and delicious. Warning: caramel macchiato isn’t vegan (milk in the drizzle), neither is their hot chocolate (sob, it used to be) nor their chai tea latte (honey in the syrup).

Caramel Macchiato, my usual on days I need a kick.

Hazelnut Macchiato, my usual on days I need a kick.

2. Ooh Cha Cha

They don’t do lattes, but they do white coffee with a coconut almond milk blend that is delicious. I could happily forsake lattes if I had that on tap. I like it with a slice of raw vegan mocha cheesecake.

The best white coffee I've tasted.

The best white coffee I’ve tasted.

3. Mianto

Again, no lattes, but they do the ‘Miantochino’ – coffee with soy whipped cream on top from a squirts can. They import it specially and it’s divine, and you can get a cupcake with it while you’re there.

With extra cream, please.

With extra cream, please.

4. Fresh bakery and cafe

Fresh will do you a latte while you sit and eat your bread and cake, and it’s not bad – but it’s also not rich enough for my taste. The coffee is lacking a certain something, and it’s a little too weak and soy milky/just watery. I stick the the Indian milk tea which is lovely.

5. Herban Kitchen and Bar

Herban will brew up an excellent latte to go with your vegan brunch. It’s a little on the pricey side, but it’s good. They also have a cashew milk one that you can add flavoured syrups to, and it’s delicious.

6. Naked Food, Delicious Taipei

Naked Food and Herban are by far the best lattes on this list. Naked Food’s is a decent size, and good coffee. Hopefully they’ll have a non-soy option soon, too. It’s also cheaper than Starbucks and Herban, and you can get a cake to go with it.

I’ve heard Loving Hut and About Animals also do lattes, but I haven’t tried either yet. If you know of anywhere else to feed vegan caffeine addictions, please let me know!

Warning: The cafe in the QSquare mall by Taipei Main Station has a soy milk option, but it contains cow milk. I made the mistake of not asking the first two times and it was only the third time I went that they thought to tell me. Learn from my mistake: always ask!

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