Halal food alternatives in Taiwan - Vegetarian meals

Since finding halal food can be quite cumbersome in Taiwan, you can go for vegetarian meals as an alternative. Most Taiwanese practice Mahayana Buddhism which recommends a strict vegetarian diet, and you can surprisingly find a lot of vegetarian eateries around Taiwan. (Some Muslims might have opinions about calling it as an halal alternative since the food were prepared by devoted Buddhist. I'm not going to discuss this, everyone has a choice.) The vegetarians in Taiwan refrain from alcohol too, so to my standard of "halal", it is sufficient. In order to survive in Taiwan, I regularly opt for vegetarian food, and I will share you some reviews and what to expect.

Before I continue, I need to emphasise the importance of asking whether any food is vegetarian (素) or not. Because the Taiwanese put lard (pig oil) and rice wine (alcohol) in most of their food, so, unless they specifically claim the food is "Vegetarian". You might think that there should not be a problem to eat the Taiwan's famous street food onion cake (蔥油餅) or the oyster omelette (蚵仔煎), chances are, most of those stalls use lard as the most basic ingredient. So, please be cautious.

The only irritating fact (for me) is that the Taiwanese vegetarian diet refrain from eating onion, garlic and chili too! It makes our choices less attractable, to be honest I don't think I can survive on them for life. But eating once in a while is still very delicious. In fact, you should slot in at least one vegetarian meal in your travel itinerary to truly enjoy local Taiwanese cuisines.

Pay-per-weight Vegetarian restaurants

Most of the vegetarian restaurants here in Taiwan charge you based on the weight of the food you eat, but the bill always come out reasonable. As of the time I am writing this, it is about 25NT$/100g of food. Two of the largest pay-per-weight Vegetarian restaurant chains are "Minder Vegetarian Restaurants (明德素食園)" and "Quan Guo Vegetarian Restaurants (全國健康素食)". Both have many branches around Taipei, for a full list of locations, please check out the map I have shared previously.

The shop logos: Minder (left) and QuanGuo(right)

The branches nearest to major tourist attractions are :
1. Minder branch at Xing Kong Mitsukoshi (新光三越) Block A8 Food Court (if you are shopping around Taipei 101 area)
2. Minder branch at Eslite XinYi Store (誠品信義店) Food court (if you visit the 24 hour Eslite bookstore)
3. Minder branch at QSquare Mall (京站時尚廣場) Basement 3 Food court (when you shop around Taipei Main Station or Taipei Underground Mall)
4. Minder branch at Eslite Dunnan Store (誠品敦南店) Food court (when you are around the so called "East District" of Taipei (東區))
5. Quanguo branch: few minutes walk from SoGo ZhongXiao Store (忠孝) (This one in East district too)

Let me some pictures to share with you so that you roughly can expect what the food more or less resembles:
After you select your food, you can add white rice/brown rice or porridge. This will be on a day when I am very hungry, the bill will come out around NT$200.
Some shops provide free soup, some shop doesn't. Something like this would cost less than NT$100.
The above is from one vegetarian buffet restaurant. The must eat item every time I go to these shops is turnip cake(蘿蔔糕)!
You will find vegetables in Taiwan is really fresh, besides, that island is blessed with many different types of mushrooms too.
You will be spoilt for choices, I promise! ;)

Vegetarian Fine Dining

If you fancy a vegetarian fine-dining experience, I highly recommend SuFood. They offer 4 course vegetarian meal for NT$398 (with 10% service charge). There are different choices for entrée, soup, main course, dessert and drink. Check out their website for more details. The restaurant ambience is very nice, food are quite appetizing too.
Photos are from my different visits to SuFood. They have a default menu, and some are seasonal items. They used to have more branches, but currently only left with two outlets in Taipei, here are the addresses:

1. SuFood Chongqing branch
Address in Chinese: 台北市中正區重慶南路一段58號3樓
Address: No. 58, Section 1, Chongqing South Road, Zhongzheng District
Operating hours: 11:30-14:30, 17:30-21:30 (open till 10pm on public holidays)
How to get there: NTU Hospital Station Exit 4 (Actually very near to Taipei Main Station area too)

2. SuFood Banqiao branch
Address in Chinese: 新北市板橋區遠東路1號
Address: No.1, Yuandong Rd., Banqiao Dist, New Taipei City
Operating hours: 11:30-14:30, 17:30-21:30 (open till 10pm on public holidays)
How to get there: about 8 mins walk from MRT Far Eastern Hospital station

Kind reminder, please double-check whether the shops are still there prior to your trip planning because businesses in Taiwan come and go in the blink of an eye. They frequently close down some branches and open new branches.

Wherever you visit in Taiwan, you are likely to find a vegetarian restaurant. Just try to remember the word "素食" (Su4 Shi2 - don't pronounce 'su-shee'), if you don't know how to speak Mandarin, just print out that two characters, and show them to any passer-by. Taiwanese are friendly enough to help you find nearest one. Next post I shall write about food that you can actually enjoy in night markets. 

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