Hi Jesse,I came to your blog to view your list of vegan options for Tokyo and accidentally found your Taiwan vegan listings. What a surprise! I hardly leave any comments on blogs but as a Taiwanese vegan who grew up on the other end of the street of the iVegan supermarket and a frequent diner of Minder Garden, I am truly impressed and immensely delighted to see your in-depth introduction of my beloved home. The situation regarding meats used in the pseudo meats is sad but I usually avoid the pseudo meats as they are just full of too much artificial flavorings. As for milk and eggs, the dishes are usually marked if contain them. Fresh produce are abundant in Taiwan and it's really a vegan paradise since there are just so may different veggies and fruits to choose from. Oh, FRUITS! The Taiwanese fruits are glorious and really deserve a page of their own. There are so much vegetable dishes regularly eaten by Taiwanese people that one can always go to a regular non vegetarian 'food by weight' or 'pick you own dish' restaurant and have a nice meal with different vegetable dishes with rice and soup as long as one selects dishes with vegetables only and confirms that vegetable oil is used. The hotpot buffets are always my savers as I can always ask for clear water as the soup base and cook and eat as much vegetables, clear vermicelli, and noodles as I please. They usually offer many fresh fruits at the buffets as well. It's really easy to go whole food vegan in Taiwan.One thing I want to clarify after reading your blog is that the strict Buddhists such as nuns, monks and serious practitioners are strict vegans who also abstain from the 5 pungents - onion, chive, garlic, scallion, and leek. The Taiwanese understanding of 'vegetarian' is always the Buddhist vegan. It is only in the past 15 years or so that in order to promote more plant eating to the various level of practicing disciples, the Buddhist 'masters' start to take a step back and accept their disciples to move towards plant based eating and begin as 'milk-egg vegetarian eating 5 pungents' and eventually 'true Buddhist vegetarian' (vegan abstaining 5 pungents). They figure lacto-ovo-vegetarians still reduce lots of killing of animals. That is the reason why lots of the Buddhists vegetarian restaurants now offer some dishes with milk or even eggs. This wasn't the case when I grew up. Back in the days when there was only one type of vegetarian (vegan), some restaurants will even use a different pot, which has never been used to cook animal products, to prepare food for serious Buddhists, nuns, and monks to show their respect. When I was little, I had once dined at a restaurant which without prior notice received a highly respected monk group as one of their dinner guests and saw the owner ran out to buy a brand new pot to cook for them. Thank you for your great work on my beloved home and enjoy what the gorgeous island has to offer!
Hi Vegan TaiwaneseThank you so much for your kind comment and such helpful information. I will update my blog and books accordingly, to note the vegan tradition of Buddhism here. That is very interesting; I had just assumed that Buddhists in Taiwan had always eaten dairy products. It does make sense that they tried to 're-package' vegetarianism to be more popular for lay people, however I do wish they would now support veganism more, as I'm sure you know that Buddhist temples are often the most difficult places to find vegan food, and especially since most eggs and dairy are now factory farmed. Even the Buddhist nuns I have met (which isn't many) have eaten dairy products (but I think not egg). And yes the fruits here are delicious, the buffets so convenient as you say, and overall I totally agree that Taiwan is a wonderful place to live as a vegan - it's one reason I've stayed so long! Thank you again for your helpful comment.And I hope you found my Japan blog. I'm sure it's too late now (and the blog is out of date) but please let me know if I can ever help to plan other trips to Japan. Jesse