Tuesday 1 March 2016

Oodles of Noodles

Noodles are up there with my pizza on my favourite foods list and they're definitely going to be some of the best possible fuel for your Taiwanese adventures. Walking up elephant mountain to catch a glimpse of Taipei 101 is high up on my list of must do's for travellers visiting the city. When I was walking around the business district Taipei 101 didn't look that big but from up above you get a whole different sense of scale as well as an amazing view of Taipei's urban sprawl. On a clear day you can even see planes taking off from Songshan airport. Pretty cool!

Taipei has a huge wealth of noodle options, enough that it would be almost impossible to write about them all although I am of course going to try.
The first noodle spot on my agenda was Vege Creek simply because it was the most frequent answer to the question "where's your favourite place to eat in Taipei". It seems that everyone loves it and for good reason. It's a simple modern vegan twist on a traditional concept, you rock up, grab a basket, fill it with your choice of greens, veggies, proteins and a noodle token and then take it to the counter where it'll be tallied up and cooked for you.

I was always amazed at the selection of things on offer and I love, love, loved the high level of customisation that goes into the meal. In the mood for tofu? Cool, there are three or four tofu options including yuba. Fancy adding something deep fried and delicious? No problem! Are you a straight up vegetable fan? That's cool too, you can load up on everything from pak choi and spinach to three or four kinds of mushrooms as well as green beans, aubergine, baby corn, seaweed knots and more. Noodle wise there are five kinds to choose from ranging from fried to spinach. I usually went with the ramen noodle option, as well as a little bunch of pak choi, a couple of varieties of mushroom (oyster is my absolute fave), some pumpkin, a handful of carrots, a couple of types of tofu and always some faux ham pieces.

Everything you choose will be braised in an aromatic spice and soy sauce flavoured stock which is a traditional Chinese cooking technique called Lu Wei. Usually my meal came out at around 200TWD / £4 / $5.50 which feels like a total bargain for such a delicious meal that's totally tailored to whatever you're craving that day. In the centre of the table you'll find mix ins like chilli sauce, sesame oil, pomelo dressing, toona (a Chinese herb from the mahogany tree that I'd never heard of until this trip), and sesame seeds which means that you can tweak the flavours even more. I loved every meal I ate at Vege Creek and if I could pick one place up from Taipei up and move it to wherever I end up living it'd totally be this one.

Top tip: There's a second branch of Vege Creek located in the basement food court of the Eslite building on DunHua South Road and a third inside the Breeze shopping centre on Song Gao Road.

Hot Pot is a dish that I fell in love with in Vietnam and have been dreaming of ever since. Loving Hut at Guangfu specialises in the dish and I headed there as soon as I realised that my cravings could be fulfilled. They have a huge range of broth options to choose from but the veggies and noodles stay the same. I thought that I'd communicated my need for a chilli free meal pretty clearly when I ordered a soy milky pumpkin broth but as is often the case something got lost in translation and there were a few very small pieces floating in the broth - we picked them out and I guess they'd been in there for a short enough time that I was a-ok and didn't break out in any kind of rash. Always a bonus at dinner! 

This is probably one of my favourite Loving Huts, the menu isn't huge but everything I tried there was decent. Aside from the flavourful bubbling hot pots I would recommend trying the Chinese roti which is flavoured with toona and that is more like a cross between a thick savoury pancake and a scallion pancake than any roti I've ever seen. I also enjoyed the pumpkin soup and both the tofu and shrimp skewers. The apple pie ice cream cake is another win if you're in the market for something sweet and cold.

Top tip: If like me you can't live without bread there's an excellent bakery called GakuDen in-between Sun Yat Sen station and Loving Hut Guangfu. They label their vegan breads and I tried an excellent baguette, a fantastic olive filled ciabatta and some flavourful nutty wholewheat buns. Just look out for the Quan 1 symbol which denotes vegan food*! *In some cases you'll need to ask about honey as the symbol doesn't cover it but in this case all of the breads I asked about were bee product free.

Taipei can be a tough spot for a traveller on a limited budget especially if you don't have your own kitchen which is why the MiKai branch of Loving Hut is such a great find. I actually ordered the Wonton Soup which really isn't noodles but Nick went for the herb soup which is enough of a noodle-ful dish that I'll let this place slip into my noodle post.

These delicious brothy faux meat filled soups cost about 45TWD / £1 / $1.35 which is an unbelievable bargain that had me questioning my grasp of the exchange rate for a good few minutes.

Any regular reader of my blog knows that Japanese cuisine is where my heart's at so I was excited to read about Hoshina on Kip's blog when I was researching my trip to Taiwan. Hoshina is located in the foodie DaAn area just down the street from the Guangfu branch of Loving hut, it's 100% veggie and the menu clearly states which things are ovo or lacto vegan - their descriptions not mine. The dishes on the menu are simple and often make one thing the star. Udon noodles are their speciality and you can watch them being made through the window before you even enter the restaurant. I tried a few things from the menu but the standouts were the sesame tofu with wasabi, the fresher than fresh udon noodles served cold with a sesame dipping sauce and the seasonal asparagus special (not asparagus as I know it but a Chinese variety also known as dragon beard vegetable) which consisted of the vegetable and a thick flavourful sesame sauce that was reminiscent of a mild creamy peanut satay.

The noodles really did live up to the hype and they stand out as the best udon I've ever eaten. The asparagus special is something that I'm dying to recreate and I also enjoyed the black sesame tofu which came with an almost fruity miso dressing and the cabbage rolls whilst Nick was a fan of the spicy udon soup.

I can hardly believe that my time in Taiwan is over and that my travels had me landing in Hong Kong a few hours ago, this year is flying by! I've loved every minute spent exploring Taipei and I'm hoping that my posts will inspire you to push this great city to the top of your must-visit list. If you follow me on social media you know that after my month in Taipei I spent a couple of weeks travelling around Taiwan by train checking out hot springs, national parks and each city's vegan eats and I can't wait to tell you all about it next time. See ya then!


  1. As always everything looks amazing. Noodles are the best.

  2. I agree that noodles and pizza are the best foods ever. Those and vegan mac & cheese make up my top 3 foods of all time. I can't believe that soup was only $1.35!!! Geez. Right now, I'm eating a $7 sandwich from a cafe in Memphis, and it didn't even come with a side! Wish I had a $1.35 bowl of noodles!

  3. OK, that's it - you've convinced me, next time I'm flying long haul, I'm fitting in a trip to Taipei, and noodling out.

  4. Noodles and pizza are definitely up there with my bestest favourite foods as well!
    These all look amazing! I love the sound of the fresh udon noodles, I would love to try that. And the place where you can customise your own noodle bowl? Love!

    Thanks for finally telling me what toona is. I have seen it on the menus of a couple of Asian veggie places here, and have always wondered and meant to look it up, but forgot by the time I got home.

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  6. Those all looks so delicious!! And seem to have opened since I was in Taipei....really need to visit again!

  7. Oh Jojo! All these noodles are giving me noodle fits!! I really don't eat enough noodles. I need to fix that! Also, I have a friend who just moved to Taipei. He's not vegan,but I told him about your blog and he was stoked!! woooot. love you!


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