Monday, 26 December 2011

Restaurant Review: the Minder chain

Many people complain that vegetarian self-serve (buffet-style) restaurants often sell low-quality, oily, cold, unappetizing fare. Minder Vegetarian (明德素食園; “Míng-de”; is here to correct that view at more than a dozen locations in northern Taiwan (here).

Most are in Taipei’s middle-class Da’an, Xinyi and Beitou districts, but there are branches in the high-density commuter suburbs of Xindian and Luzhou of New Taipei City, and a couple in Hsinchu as well. Today’s NOMM review is of the convenient (for travelers and central government workers) Taipei Main Station branch, upstairs at the northeast corner so one doesn’t even need to leave the building when changing between mainline, high-speed or MRT trains.

At NT$25 (ca. US$0.80) per 100g, the food is more expensive than at many similar establishments, but the quality is higher than most too, the taste of each vegetable is clear and different. A plate of vegetables with a side of rice usually costs between NT$75 and NT$150; that in the photograph (left) costs NT$125 (ca. US$4). Soups cost NT$20~60 and canned/bottled drinks NT$20~35.

 Beyond this, different branches of Minder sell different extras. The Taipei Station branch has shuijiao dumplings (NT$60), various dry noodles (NT$60~70) and soupy noodles (NT$80~109), baked noodles or rice (NT$160), and slightly strange pizzas such as Thai style soy-bacon pizza (NT$110~230).

During the peak 12~ lunchtime rush, seats can be hard to get, but things quieten down after that.

Address: 2F,
No. 3 Beiping West Road
(not that this will help much, just go upstairs at the northeast corner of the station)
Tel. 02-2361 3566
Hours: ~
NOMM fake meat index: 2 (low)

Monday, 19 December 2011

News Brief: Health warning issued on hotpot foods

Hotpots can contain many harmful substances, including agrichemicals, preservatives and food additives, as well as toxic chemicals released from containers, the Homemakers’ Union and Foundation said, as reported by the Taipei Times today (full article here).

The foundation’s Taichung division director Yang Shu-hui (楊淑慧) said there are many easily  overlooked risks that come with eating hotpots, such as ractopamine or antibiotics contained in meat, pesticides or nitrates in vegetables, preservatives in a number of hotpot ingredients and sauces, melamine in disposable containers and the excess amount of electromagnetic waves from induction cookers.

Restaurant Review: When ONLY 7-Eleven is available

When needs must, such as when suck in a typhoon or in the mountains, there is something microwaveable and edible and vegetarian in 7-Eleven. When needs must. Look in the freezers for a square plastic box with a yellow-and-blue label, titled 素三杯炒飯 (su sanbei chaofan; “vegetarian three cups fried rice”), made by Guiguan (桂冠) and costing NT$56 (ca. US$2). It is cheaper in supermarkets, but if there are supermarkets open, you probably don’t need to eat processed food.

Sanbei (“three cups”) is a classic Chinese cooking method, in which ingredients are slow-cooked in a sauce composed of one cup of soy sauce, one cup of sesame oil, and one cup of rice wine (sherry is usually suggested for Westerners without access to an Asian victualer). Since  , usually translated as “vegetarian” really means something like “accords to Buddhist dietary rules”, the wine is omitted from this product.

Otherwise, the roll-call of ingredients sounds impressive: rice, brown rice, purple sticky rice, wheat, oats, buckwheat, tofu "wheels" (豆輪丁), vegetarian ham, mushroom, soy sauce, canola oil, basil, sesame oil and chili.

It is probably the presence of the basil and sesame oil that make this product worthy of an NOMM review, or at least of eating when there is ONLY 7-Eleven available.

On the downside, while the words  無防腐劑 (“no preservatives”) offer some comfort, its 575 calories (slightly hidden in the 210 calories per 100g formula) and 8.2 percent fat are not encouraging.

But, when needs must ....

Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

Feature: Interview with Meat-free Monday founder, Alex Su

Alex Su, Meat-free Monday Founder, at home.

NOMM met today with Alex Su (蘇小歡), founder of Taiwan’s Meat-free Monday (周一無肉日) campaign group. 
[Interview was undertaken in mixture of English and Chinese, the following is a translated/edited version.]

NOMM:  Briefly, about yourself, what was the cause of your conversion to vegetarianism and what led you to launch the Meat-free Monday group in Taiwan?
Alex Su: I chose vegetarianism about 15 years ago out of a desire not to kill or hurt animals unnecessarily. I gave up working fulltime about a decade ago, and withdrew to my home here [between Xindian and Wulai in New Taipei City]. My wife calls me a hermit. But as global warming has become more urgent, I decided to re-engage with the world, and so with a few others established the Meat-free Monday group.

NOMM: I remember hearing of Meat-free Monday being launched in Taipei in 2009, what has it been up to since then?
AS:  Over the last two years we have undertaken a three-stage evolution.
That would have been the press conference we held to announce establishment of our association in September 2009. Our main purpose at that time was to raise public understanding that reducing meat consumption is a major environmental contribution through reduction in climate-change emissions.
In November 2009 we held a street parade, which as well as environmentalism, also focused on the health benefits to be gained from vegetarianism.
In October 2010 we promoted vegetarianism as a tasty option, since many people held the misconception that meat is both necessary to diet and also tastier.

NOMM: And over the last year?
AS: We are like a duck floating on water. On the surface little seems to be happening, but beneath we are paddling away with determination. We have little money, and have no wish to apply for government grants or sponsorship by commercial companies. This means that when we speak, people know what we say is said with sincerity. Our main activities are lobbying and a twice-monthly (formerly weekly) newsletter to disseminate information.

NOMM: Who do you lobby?
AS: We continually contact government agencies and members of the legislature to keep vegetarianism on their agendas, our members and supporters in organizations like the Rotary Clubs raise the issue of vegetarianism whenever possible, and I use my contacts from my former occupation in the media to keep the issue in the public eye.

NOMM: What response have you received and, in particular, has there been any noticeable increase in vegetarian numbers in Taiwan?
AS: Before the activities of groups including ours, the number of vegetarians in Taiwan had been stable at around 8 percent for a couple of decades (equivalent to around 2 million people). These figures came from government and academic organizations such as the Ethnology Institute at the Academia Sinica. Although there are no exact new figures, it is apparent that there are more vegetarians, more vegetarian restaurants, as well as more people having meat-free days or meat-free meals.
        If seven people follow the idea of a meat-free Monday, that is equivalent to one extra fulltime vegetarian; if 21 people only follow the meat-free idea for one meal per week, that too is equivalent to one extra fulltime vegetarian.

NOMM: Has there been any change in the reasons people are vegetarian, if only for a day or a meal?
AS: Vegetarianism in Taiwan was originally a religious matter, promoted primarily by Buddhist organizations such as Tzu Chi (慈濟) and Foguangshan (佛光山), but also unbeknownst to most people, [the syncretic religion] Yiguandao (一貫道), whose followers operate around 60 percent of Taiwan’s vegetarian restaurants.
       Recent converts to vegetarianism, especially young people, tend to be more motivated by environmental concerns. Also, traditional organizations such as Tzu Chi, whereas they previously advocated vegetarianism, are now pushing it much more strongly among their followers. There is also the Loving Hut (愛家) chain of 28 restaurants run by the Supreme Master Ching Hai organization, promoting a strongly environmentalist veganism, even though it started as a religious organization.

NOMM: What is the role of celebrity vegetarians in this rise?
AS: As I said, our organization is not rich, in fact we are an association (協會) not even a foundation (基金會), which needs a substantial “fund,” so we have to make a little money go a long way. The media and high-profile figures can be important in the process of disseminating ideas and practices, therefore.
        Having said that, I would like to mention one government official whose influence is probably greater than others’ but whose contribution largely passes below the radar. This is Vice Minister of Education Lin Tsong-ming ( 林聰明), himself a vegetarian and former school teacher, who has promoted meat-free days in public schools throughout Taiwan. Around 70 percent of schools now have meat-free days, mostly Mondays but sometimes Fridays.

NOMM: What is next for Meat-free Monday (Taiwan) and for Alex Su?
AS: Having set up the group and got it started, I hope now to pass the running of it to others and return somewhat to my “hermit” life. Having said that, three recent developments will come to fruition early next year.
First, is the launch of “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (2)” (飲食男女二), with which I am involved. The first Oscar-nominated film, made by Ang Lee (李安), dealt with meat dishes, this second one is about vegetarian food.
Second, is a Chinese translation by my wife Caddy Lung and myself of Will Tuttle’s book “A World Peace Diet.”
And third, will be publication of a book of a selection of the information provided in our newsletter over the last two years.

NOMM: Doesn’t sound like much of a return to being a hermit! Good luck with your projects.

Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Feature: Confucius says "bu shi, bu shi"

([if it] is not in season, do not eat [it])

Analects of Confucius (X, viii)

Monday, 12 December 2011

Restaurant Reivew: One-person banquet (Yilan City)

 Lucky is the traveller outside Taipei’s main cities who can find more on offer then rice and noodle dishes, or the ubiquitous buffet. Occasionally one might come across a banquet-style restaurant selling 合菜 (he-cai; “combination dishes”), but these are suited to groups not solo diners.

The 10-year-old Lianxin Vegetarian Restaurant (蓮心素食餐坊; lit. “Lotus Heart” but no English name) just outside Yilan City’s (宜蘭市) old north gate (北門) has rice and noodle dishes, and offers a variety of classic Chinese-style banquet dishes, according with Buddhist vegetarianism, of course.

But it also offers “individual combination dishes” (個人合菜; NT$150), consisting of one vegetable dish, two portions from the main list of banquet dishes, one soup (rather more fancy than the usual boiled leftovers) and a little fruit.  

The dishes include such classics as sweet and sour ribs, three cups chicken; sizzling-plate king oyster mushroom, sweet and sour shrimp balls, lotus leaf steamed tofu, meigan kourou (pork), fish in sauce &c. These are available as full dishes for NT$150-350, meaning four people ordering 4 or 5 dishes plus a soup would spend about NT$1000. The only downside of the “individual combo”, apart from the unavoidable fake meats, is that diners cannot choose their dishes.

For those that want control, there are still a wide range of rice (NT$120) and noodle (NT$70) dishes, plates of vegetables (NT$70) and soups (NT$60). Biandang (NT$60) are available for those without time to sit. Elegant Buddhist art is there for those who do.

price: ca. NT$150
429 Zhongshan Rd.
(中山路) Sec.3, Yilan City,
tel. 03-9320706;
NOMM fake meat index: 6 (high)

For those finding themselves at the other (south) end of the old city, QianQian (千千素食館; “One Thousand Thousands Vegetarian Restaurant” but no English name) in the shadow of Carrefour offers a reasonable selection of vegetables, tofus, (fake meats), rice and noodles for NT$85 all-you-can-eat buffet style.
No.7 Minquan Rd. Sec.2 (民權路二段); (03)932 8311; `11-14:00 and 17~; 7 days/week

Text and photos copyright Jiyue Publications

Thursday, 8 December 2011

News Brief: Unscrupulous businessman forges “best-before” dates to sell out-of-date products

Having received reports in early November of some low-life businessman changing expiry dates on foods and drinks, the Tainan District Prosecutors Office (台南地檢署) combined forces with its counterpart in Changhua (彰化地檢署) to conduct a sting operation, secretly monitoring suspicious activities, buying and testing items, the Liberty Times reports today (full Chinese-language article here, or wait and see if its sister paper the Taipei Times reports in English tomorrow). 

Prosecutors discovered that Heya Company (荷亞商行) of Xiushui Township (秀水鄉) in Changhua County, owned by Chen Cheng-li (陳政利), is suspected in collecting out-of-date food and drinks, forging new expiry dates, then selling them for 10-50 percent of market prices to middlemen throughout the country, making more than NT$1 billion in one month.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

News Brief: dog food contains preservatives &c.

Dog-lovers often want to give their pets the same protection as a son or daughter, but 40 percent of dog foods surveyed contained preservatives, the Consumers’ Foundation (消基會) discovered, the China Times reports today (full Chinese-language article here).

Eight of 20 canned and dried products tested by the foundation were found to contain the preservative sorbic acid (己二烯酸).

In addition, Carrefour’s own-brand dog food labeled “beef favor” on the can was found to include only chicken and tuna. Carrefour responded that this was due to beef import sources having been previously categorized as “quarantine zones”. Should there be a change in the law, Carrefour said it would accord with future regulations.

                                                                              Text © Jiyue Publications 2011

News Brief: Beans, beans, they make you fart … but some kinds are better (worse) than others

Many people think that eating beans makes them cut vintage cheese, and so maintain a respectful culinary distance from legumes. But in reality, not all beans lead to flatulence, the Xinsheng Daily reports (Chinese-language article here). 

Moreover, not just does the degree of bottom bugling vary from bean to bean, but individual diners physiques also influence the timbre of ones trouser tuba.

The US researchers also stressed legume consumptions benefits for the human heart, and recommended that they form a part of everyones daily diet along with fresh fruit and vegetables. People worried about stormy weather followed by strong winds and thunder should try a variety of beans, one at a time and in small doses, and keep an eye on physiological changes until they find one that measures low on the rectum scale.

                                                 Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

News Brief: Danger of sugar substitutes

Many people wanting to diet without giving up sweet foods switch to sugar substitutes, but this can still lead to increased weight, the China Times reports today (Chinese-language article here)

New research from the US suggests eating foods containing sugar substitutes can cause people to consume more calories, causing their weight to go up. The John Tung Foundation reminded consumers that many products on sale marked “low sugar” (低糖) or “low calorie”(低熱量) could, if they have a sweet flavour, contain sugar substitutes, and people should not assume that they could eat as much as they wanted without repercussion.

Director of the foundation's nutrition group,Hsu Hui-yu, said there are many kinds of sugar substitutes, used in many drinks, chewing gum, candies and biscuits etc. According to research done on mice at Purdue University in the US, weight gain by mice eating sugar substitutes was greatest, possibly due to interference in biological appetite regulation mechanisms, causing them to eat even more.

(In fact this is not entirely new news, Purdue University research was reported earlier this year (English-language news here) and even earlier research has made Time Magazine in 2008 (here).

News Brief: Snack in the p.m., not a.m. to lose weight

People wanting to lose weight should not eat snacks between breakfast and lunch, US researchers have found, the United Daily News reports today (Chinese-langauge article here).

Those on a diet who snack in the morning lost just 7 percent of their body weight, compared to 11 percent by those who did not. (English article c/o Huffingtonpost here).

Monday, 5 December 2011

Restaurant Review; veg food in the mall

Just as hypermarkets and shopping malls are poor places to buy vegetables and non-processed foods, so too their dining areas have few vegetarian options.
To its credit, the menu at the Skylark (加洲風洋食) chain, mostly centered around steak, hamburgers and seafood platters (accompanied by bacon-topped salads and meat-stock-based soups) does have four vegetarian main courses, with a salad (two dressings) and soup choice to accompany it.
As a rare exception, therefore, NOMM this Monday reviews a non-vegetarian restaurant.

The 4 mains include 2 rice and 2 noodles:
a) Italian Porcini Doria,
b) Vegetable Pilaff - Oyster Sauce Flavour,
c) Spaghetti with Vegetable Asian Flavour,
d) Spaghetti with Italian Porcini
The soup is Vegetarian Mushroom Broth and the salad has either yoghurt or curry olive dressing.
NOMM chose the doria (baked rice) dish, but no, we couldn’t switch for the vegetable soup on the regular menu, it wasn’t vegetarian, nor for the vegetables instead of salad, even without the bacon bits (suggesting, perhaps, the veg are fried in lard).
The doria was adequate but dominated by a thick layer of cheese (so definitely not vegan), and the soup was rather tasteless and oily. The absence of fake meat, was a pleasant surprise, however.
All meals come with two bits of bread and a drink; NOMM had hot cocoa, which perfectly hit the spot on this wet wintry day. It was like a drink and dessert combined.

Vegetarian mains cost around NT$180, a combination meal around NT$300 (significantly cheaper than most of the meat meals, which is often a bone of contention). Optional desserts are NT$50 extra, beers NT100 and wine NT$360 a half bottle.

Skylark gets extra marks for
i)                    listing the calories of each item in its menu,
ii)                   the size and crispness of the salad portion (single price: NT$50),
iii)                  the spacious layout of the restaurant: being closer to one’s dining partner than a neihbouring stranger greatly improves one’s experience.
iv)                 once infamous for bringing each course before diners had finished the previous one, Skylark seems to have listened to complaints. It was actually difficult to get staff to bring all NOMM’s dishes at once in order to take a photograph.
v)                  although we sat, chatted, wrote and read for 2 hours at a peak time (Saturday ) while customers queued outside, we were never given any pressure to eat up and get going.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Feature: Finding a vegetarian restaurant/store (part I)

YJH sends the following list (Chinese-language postings):

vegetarian stores

other vegetarian stores in Taipei

vegetarian stores in other cities


Restaurant Review: -- Fulong Railway Lunchbox (Fulong, New Taipei City)

Chishang (池上) in Taitung County (台東), Alishan (阿里山) in Chiayi County (嘉義), but most of all Fulong (福隆) in the old Taipei County are all famed for their railway lunch boxes. Originally (and still) sold to passengers from the station platforms, these towns also now have lunch box restaurants in the nearby streets, and indeed, there are Fulong and Chishang lunch box providers in neighbouring towns and further afield.

Having tried and failed to purchase a vegetarian lunch box on the platform, NOMM bought one from the nearest store, at No.5 Fulong St. (福隆街).

The omens looked good, there was even a sign taped to the counter listing the ingredients, and translated into English by the owner's daughter.

The vegetarian version listed "rice, marinated dried tofu, cabbage, dried radish, seaweed, marinated gluten, vegetarian ham, pickled cabbage, corn, carrot, potato, bean" all for NT$55.

NOMM passed on the vegetarian ham and was rewarded with an extra portion of vegetables.

Here ended the good news. The food was gross. Perhaps walking further from the station might work, but when NOMM tried this, we were asked, "Do you mind if the vegetables are cooked in lard?"

Perhaps a packed lunch is advisable for a day at the beach.

                                                   Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

News Brief: Fruit price becomes election issue

The real problem with the nation’s agricultural sector is an imbalance between supply and demand and the government’s inability to resolve the matter, Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party said yesterday, the Taipei Times reports (full article here).

The latest spat between political parties was initiated by a fall in the price of persimmons, but using a calendar printed with a dozen types of locally grown fruits that have plunged in price this year, the DPP accused Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) government of incompetance.
Ma had earlier said that the DPP was citing incorrect information to mislead the public ahead of next year’s presidential and legislative elections.

But the DDP said prices for guavas in Changhua (彰化), longans in Taichung (台中) and Nantou (南投), persimmons in Taitung (台東), as well as tangerines in Yunlin (雲林) had all fallen.

The real issue was not the price paid by shoppers in markets (as quoted by Ma), but the price that growers obtained, and the comparison of that price with their costs of production, DPP spokesperson Kang Yu-cheng (康裕成) said during a press conference.

The DPP caucus called on Ma to tackle the supply imbalance problem immediately and adopt a “95 percent mechanism” in which the government would purchase farm produce at 95 percent of the production cost whenever the selling price fell below specific prices monitored by the government.

Fruit imports from China between January and last month showed a 71 percent increase in comparison with the same period last year, DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said, adding that the drop in prices could be because of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China in June last year.

Text and photos copyright Taipei Times

News Brief: McDonald's goes vegetarian (for 5 days on 3 items in 1 town)

To stay open during a local town-wide vegetarian festival, McDonald’s sells vegetarian food, TVBS reports today (full Chinese-article here)

For 5 days every 12 years, the 90,000 citizens Puli (埔里) Township in Nantou (南投) County hold the jian jiao ji dian (建醮祭典) religious ceremony [to welcome, entertain and bid farewell to visiting spirits].

Although not all citizens strictly adhere to the spirit of vegetarianism, so many take it seriously that meat and fish vendors in the markets suspend business for five days, as do owners of non-vegetarian restaurants.

To "accord with" this local custom, McDonald’s, from Nov 27 to Dec 1, while not suspending or curbing its burger menu, is offering residents of Puli vegetarian options. These include “bagels with jam”, French fries and hash brown potatoes. All cooked, during this period, in vegetable oil. 

A “meal” [NOMM’s emphasis] consisting of bagel, hash brown and fizzy drink costs NT$65.

                                              Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

Saturday, 26 November 2011

News Brief: Beware tea bags but more so tags - Government Agency

While tea bags and spice pouches meet legal standards with regard to leaching of chemicals, it perhaps time to change the regulations relating to food packaging, the Consumer Protection Commission (消費者保護委員會) claimed yesterday, the Taipei Times reports today (full article here).

The semi-independent central-government agency tested 30 items, all of which accorded with the “Sanitation Standards for Food and Utensil Packaging.” Nevertheless, the CPC suggested that worries remained, partly because 22 items used plastic packaging and only 8 used paper, but more so because the standards do not reflect Taiwanese cooking habits. Current legislation for plastic packaging stipulates cooking times of 30 minutes at 95 or 60 minutes at 25. Many Taiwanese dishes are cooked for hours, however, the Commission noted.

A further concern related to the tags attached to tea bags and spice pouches, which are not counted as part of the packaging. Tests for these tags showed levels of potassium permanganate that exceeded the limits stipulated by the legal standards. Users should make sure to avoid dipping the tags in water when drinking coffee and tea, the CPC warned.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

News Brief: Avoid raw food - doctor

Following prevalence of salmonella (沙門氏桿菌) in coastal areas, Taiwanese consumers are advised not to eat uncooked foods, the Broadcasting Corporation of China (中國廣播公司) reports today (full Chinese-language article here). These include Japanese-style sashimi, live-cooked prawns, raw poultry eggs, turtle blood, and even raw vegetables. Water should also be boiled properly before being drunk.

People with swollen limbs or persistent fevers should consult their doctors.

                                                                              Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

Monday, 21 November 2011

News Brief: Eat more snacks to stay slim

Normal weight adults, including those who had lost a lot of weight and kept it off, ate more often than overweight people in a new study looking at factors that may help in preventing weight gain, local media report under the headline “Worried about being overweight? Eat More Snacks!”(full Chinese-language article here)  picking up on a Reuters story from last Friday (here).

News Brief: hot, strong tea can cause cancer - herbal doctor

Acknowledging that drinking tea can help suppress cancer, traditional Chinese medical practitioner Hsu Rui-hsiang (許瑞香) told a symposium that drinking it hot can increase the risk of getting cancer, the TW News reported last Friday (full Chinese-language article here). 

Hsu said that tea leaves are by nature “cooling” and possess a bittersweet taste, and by containing selenium can help remove free radicals from the body. Green tea is by nature “neutral” and by taste “sweet”, and its polyphenols can suppress cancer, lower cholesterol and prevent blood clotting. Furthermore, tea contains caffeine, vitamins and anti-oxidants, which can prevent cells being damaged by carcinogens.

Recent research reported this year, however, suggests that drinking hot strong tea can increase the risk of getting cancer. If the temperature is higher than 80, tea could scold the oesophagus, allowing tannins in the tea to cause damage, possibly leading to mutations and hence to cancer, Hsu said.

                                                                               Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

Feature: Glosasry III (no talking)

Many vegetarian restaurants are self-serve buffet style (自助式), and the photo above shows a typical sign seen at such places:

(word-by-word horizontally from top left to bottom right):

夾菜時      "tweezering vegetables time      
請勿交談    please not exchange talk
謝謝合作    thank-thank combine action!"

i.e. "When selecting vegetables, please do not talk; thank you for your cooperation."

                                                                Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

Restaurant Review: -- Miaoli City (Miaoli County)

After walking for an hour around Miaoli City's (苗栗市) old center--near the railway station--and finding no vegetarian restaurant and not even a vegetarian option at two noodle shops, NOMM was starting to think Hakka people (客家人) are evidently big meat eaters.

    But about 5 minutes from our hotel in the opposite direction we found the Caoshitang Sushi Guan (草食堂素食館; "Herbivore Hall Vegetarian Restaurant", but no English sign).

Over the next two days, NOMM tried:

i) Hakka toon [herb]-flavoured "plank" noodles (客家香椿粄條; NT$80), which surprisingly were in a soup, but were no less tasty for that. Another happy surprise was the absence of fake meat.
ii) "hundred pages tofu" (百頁豆腐; NT$30), which was fresh and succulent
iii) grated burdock (牛蒡絲; NT$30), which was tasty if slightly oily
(photo above)

iv) mapo tofu  rice (麻婆燴飯; NT$80), in which appeared the first fake ground meat
v) steamed seasonal leafy greens (燙青菜; NT$50), which was covered in a fake-meat sauce   
vi) Hakka toon[herb]-flavoured bamboo shoots (客家香筍; NT$60), which were also rather oily
vii) house special golden tofu (招牌黃金豆腐; NT$30), which had nothing wrong with it.
(photo right)

So in short, everything was ok, yet somehow something was lacking. But it was certainly nice to find a restaurant after and hour's search, and the fact that NOMM went back a second time shows it was more than acceptable.

Other options include various QQ (Hoklo Taiwanese for "chewy") noodles at NT$90; hot pots at NT$190 (NT$120 for a small portion); and meals for 3-5 people at NT$1,000  for 5 dishes & 1 soup (5菜一湯), 6-8 people at NT$2,000 for 7 dishes & 1 soup, and 10-12 people at NT$3,000 for 9 dishes & 1 soup.

The restaurant can do banquets for weddings &c.

Typical meal price: NT$80-120
NOMM fake meat/processed food index: 2 (good)                             
Address: 88 Xianfu Rd. (縣府路), Miaoli City (near County Hall)
Telephone: 037-355566

                                                                    Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

Sunday, 20 November 2011

News Brief: Life on a Taiwanese tuna boat

Student recounts Greenpeace experience

Amy Lan (藍之青), a 22-year old student from National Chengchi University’s department of diplomacy, shared her experiences about the two months she spent as a volunteer crewmember on Greenpeace vessel Esperanza on its mission to protect the Pacific and promote the establishment of ocean reserves in Western and Central Pacific Fisheries, the Taipei Times reports today (full article here).

Lan’s group encountered about 10 fishing vessels, four of which were Taiwanese, which she boarded to conduct interviews and better understand fishing conditions. She also saw first-hand how longline fishing is done.

An unforgettable episode from her journey was when the group saved a swordfish caught in the ropes of a tuna longline and watched as it swam away. The experience led her to think about the many fish killed as byproducts of tuna fishing.

Lan said she was surprised to see the hard lives of the fishermen, working on a small fishing boats in cramped conditions for seven to eight months at a time without docking and only making meager catches.

Text and photos © Taipei Times

Saturday, 19 November 2011

News Brief: Taiwanese food company accused

Cambodian land seizures protested

Human rights groups yesterday staged a demonstration in front of the headquarters of Ve Wong Corp—a well-known food manufacturer that produces instant noodles, sauces and snacks—in Taipei, protesting against the alleged seizure of farmland in Cambodia by two of the company’s joint ventures, the Taipei Times reports today (full story here)

Text and photos © Taipei Times

Thursday, 17 November 2011

News Brief: Happy mother donates vegetarian lunch boxes

A woman who married into a rich and prominent Hong Kong family and who has waited almost ten years without giving birth to a son or daughter, last year went eat at a vegetarian restaurant in New Taipei City. There, she prayed for a child to a statue of the Bodhisattva Guanyin (觀音), and having had a child, this year has donated HK$800,000 (ca. NT$3.1 million) to the restaurant to provide 1,000 vegetarian lunch boxes per week for the next year, the Apple Daily reports today (full Chinese-language article here).

Accepting the money, the boss of the Lianhua Veg Restaurant (蓮花素食) on Fuhe Road (福和路) in Yonghe District (永和區), said that they would start giving out the first 500 boxes this Saturday with priority to public welfare and social organizations.

                                                                  Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

News Brief: activists urge end to poultry slaughter

Activists urge end to poultry slaughter

About a dozen people from the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST; 台灣動物社會研究會) and Wenshan Community College (文山社區大學) in Taipei gathered at the Council of Agriculture yesterday to present a petition urging the council to put an immediate stop to the slaughter of poultry in traditional markets, the Taipei Times reports today (full article here).

They asked the COA to explain why a proclamation prohibiting the slaughter of poultry in traditional markets that was to be implemented in April 2008 was first postponed and finally abandoned last year.

The advocates said the prohibition related not just to animal welfare, but was also a way of preventing the spread of avian influenza and ensuring sanitary conditions, and violated the Animal Industry Act (畜牧法) and the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法)

COA data from last year show there are 62 registered poultry slaughterhouses in Taiwan, which handle about 120 million chickens every year, the Taipei Times notes.

                                                                                                     Text and photos © Taipei Times

Feature: Glossary: Religious reasons complicate timing

Most restaurants have regular opening days and times, but with many Taiwanese being irregular vegetarians based around the religious calendar, things can get confusing.

This sign reads (word-by-word, vertically from top right to bottom left):
each week-sun (=Sunday) public rest
(meet with
beginning 1, 15 as
usual operate business)

i.e. Closed on Sundays (unless Sunday is the 1st or 15th of the lunar month, in which case, open as usual).

News Brief: Is cheese healthier than butter?

Doctors and nutritionists have long recommended avoiding all animal fats to trim cholesterol, but Danish researchers say cheese may not be so bad, and probably shouldn't be placed in the same category as butter, Reuters reported yesterday (here) in a story picked up by Taiwan’s Chinese-language media today (e.g. here).

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

News Brief: Soymilk has excellent proteins - Nutritionist

Rich in high-quality protein and low in cholesterol, soymilk is healthier than cow's milk and good for the whole family, nutritionist Liu Yi-li (劉怡里) told TW-News (full Chinees-language article here).

Protein is not just a key nutritional need for childhood growth, Liu said, but is a good source of energy for adults. Drunk at breakfast, its lecithin (卵磷脂) can help improve children's concentration at school and reduce their father's pressure at work, while its isoflavones (異黃酮) can help ease mothers going through menopause.

                                                             Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

News Brief: Fair Trade Commission criticised over coffee fines

Following the imposition of fines recently by the Fair Trade Commission on convenience store chains for coordinated raising of coffee prices, a legislator yesterday criticised the FTC in the legislative Yuan, the Liberty Times reports today (Chinese-language article here).

Democratic Progressive Party legislator Li Jun-yi (李俊毅) said that since it was unable to make vendors return prices to their original levels, the FTC should join Premier Wu Dun-yi's (吳敦義) list of "incompetent" government agencies.

FTC chairperson Wu Shiow-ming (吳秀明) responded that forcing vendors to lower prices would be degenerating into populism (淪為民粹).

                                                                                              Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011