Enjoy Trendy Exotic Vegetarian Cuisine
Article: Yang Zhihan
Photos: Lin Weikai, Li Zhongquan, élément
The famous chef, Joël Robuchon said in a 2014 interview that: “The trend in cuisine over the next decade will lead into the vegetarian world!” Following this global movement, new veggie restaurants have been popping up in Taipei every couple of months. And when these places design their menus, they take customers’ concerns for ingredient origin and the story behind each product into consideration. These eateries have also learned to position dishes for taste and quality in the market, and made interior design and style key features of their businesses.
This trend of international cuisine can be witnessed in all the new restaurants popping up in Taipei, many of them building upon a traditional base while throwing in some innovative twists. The first vegetarian eateries and markets in Taipei came about for religious reasons, or for concerns about animal welfare. Now, with Taiwanese chefs mastering fresh local ingredients and combining them with international elements, a brand new vegetarian gastronomy has been born, one that has turned Taipei into a must-visit city for veggie gourmands.
Fusion Vegetarian Dishes Rich in Nutrition
The latest vegetarian restaurants are pursuing current trends while offering a type of fusion cuisine. They provide flavors and cooking techniques from the Chinese, Korean, Mexican, French and Italian traditions. New dishes appear all the time, each with layers of different flavors and textures. From entrees to side dishes, they have designed innovative ingredient combinations, and thus completely changed the impression that cafeteria style was the one and only mode of vegetarian dining.
People quite often worry they won’t get enough protein if they’re not eating meat. But actually, the protein from grains, mushrooms, beans, vegetables and fruits is easier to digest than the protein from animals. “Super foods” are popular overseas, and include avocadoes, chick peas, quinoa, zucchini, kale and arugula. Each of these is rich in vitamins and minerals, and widely used in vegan cooking.
Fusion-vegetarian cuisine is popular in Taipei and many restaurants blend Eastern and Western elements. The hope is to make meat lovers fall in love with vegetarian food presented in a style both delicate and sophisticated.
Chinese Korean Fusion – Slightly Spicy and Sweet
With a “Korean Wave” sweeping over Taiwan, the hip vegetarian bistro, Little Tree Food (小小樹食) offers vegetarian dishes that come with the must-have Korean hot sauce. Their Avocado Macro Bowl (小樹酪梨蔬菜) is served with stir-fried quinoa rice and vegetables, plus some of that homemade sauce. It’s similar to Korean bibimbap, and chocked full of surprising textures. Sichuan Spicy Dumplings (紅油皮蛋豆腐餃) combines Chinese and Western ingredients and sauces to create an innovative yet classic Chinese flavor.
By adding fresh, nutritious grains, beans, vegetables and fruit, these restaurants have created all kinds of dishes that exemplify the quintessence of vegetarian cuisine.
American Mexican Fusion – Delicate yet Filling
What most people picture when they think of American food is deep-fried meat or a juicy hamburger. So, what ingredients are American veggie places in Taiwan using to replace the meat patty? URBN culture, a chic spot whose interior design mixes American street art with lofty spaces, uses king oyster mushrooms and BBQ sauce to make a very filling BBQed Pulled “Pork” Mushroom Grilled Sandwich (撕肉菇煎烤三明治), served on Ciabatta with a side of coleslaw. Mushrooms contain dietary fiber, polysaccharides, vitamin B complex and other nutritious minerals that amply replace meat.
Their amazing, richly-flavored Vegan Homemade Burger with Plant-based Kimchi Mayo (全植手工泡菜美乃滋漢堡), substitutes soy milk for egg yolk in its mayonnaise, and is made with the soybean product, tempeh as well as oats. For their Vegan Caesar Salad (凱薩沙拉), anchovies are replaced by chick peas in the dressing, and their milkshake is made with soybean or cashew milk. In URBN culture’s specialty drink, Sweet Potato Pie (地瓜派), one can taste sweet potato, date and cinnamon, with agave syrup taking the place of honey.
With the right combination of ingredients, vegetarian food can be fulfilling! In the Mexican Bowl (墨西哥大碗公), for instance, quinoa and rice are mixed together and served with avocado, lettuce, stir-fried mixed vegetables, spicy refried beans and salsa! Toppings such as cheese and sour cream may be replaced by fried tofu containing high-protein nutritional yeast. This nature-friendly restaurant features the special aspects of exotic cuisine, while providing rich and diverse flavors.
French Vegetarian – A Feast for the Eye and the Palate
To run a successful vegetarian restaurant, one needs to develop dishes that look good, and appeal to non-vegetarians too! At élément (原蔬), the Black Quinoa Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms (黑藜麥牛肝菌菇燉飯) uses black quinoa as a substitute for risotto. This grain is high in protein, chewy, and easier on your body than polished rice.
The Mexican-Style Spicy Rigatoni (墨西哥起司辣味水管麵) is hot enough to waken your taste buds, and full of healthy fiber from the whole tomatoes. The crispy flat bread is baked with fig blue cheese, or with black truffle olives and mozzarella cheese, and has the crispy texture of Italian pizza. One can identify the different notes of saltiness and sweetness in the bread and its ingredients.
With health and nutrition as a foundation, and with a variety of dish options, new ingredient combinations, and unique homemade sauces, vegetarian food is not the same old boring thing that we remember. These unique creative dishes are so scrumptious you’ll be coming back for more!
Little Tree Food
17, Ln. 116, Sec. 1, Daan Rd., Daan Dist.
252, Sec. 2, Keelung Rd., Daan Dist.
12:00~21:30 (Sat. 11:00~22:00)
21, Ln. 408, Sec. 4, Ren’ai Rd., Daan Dist.
Spicy Garlic Mushroom Tapas
(by URBN culture)
King oyster mushrooms 200g
Minced garlic 1 tablespoon
Seasoning salt 1/2 teaspoon
Paprika 1/2 teaspoon
1. Roll cut the king oyster mushrooms. Heat the oil in the pan and cook the mushrooms until they are dry, then remove them from the pan and set aside.
2. Add a little oil to the pan, add the minced garlic, stir fry and add seasoning salt.
3. Add paprika and fry until aromatic. Add 1/3 cup of water and the mushrooms from step one, then stir fry until the liquid is reduced by half.
This can be served as a side dish, or as a topping for bread, similar to Spanish tapas.