Zhongli (中壢) in Taoyuan County is a center of Hakka culture. This tends to be a very meat-based cuisine, so NOMM expected some difficulty in finding lunch on a recent unplanned visit, especially as we rolled into town at almost .
Short of time, we headed out toward the northwest on another purpose, and were happy to come across several vegetarian stores (albeit some already closed) in the Minzu Road (民族路) area. Perhaps there is a Buddhist hospital or similar nearby.
The Su Xiang Mian Zhi Jia (素香麵之家; “home of fragrant vegetarian noodles”, but no English name), slightly up Guangdong Road (廣東路) to the left (south) and hence technically over the township boundary into Pingzhen (平鎮) was still open but about to close, so we ordered “whatever is quickest to prepare”.
This turned out to be hui-fan (燴飯; NT$60), usually given in dictionaries as “rice in gravy” but better thought of as rice topped with vegetables in a wet sauce: thicker than “soupy noodles” (湯麵) but runnier than “dry noodles”(乾麵), and, of course, made using rice not noodles.
In any case, it is not an NOMM favorite and would not have been our first choice, but it was tasty enough, and the owner was chatty about moving back to her hometown to open the restaurant 4 years ago after spending much of her life commuting each day to Banciao (板橋) in Taipei County.
SuXiangMianZhiJia has a wide range of rice and noodle dishes, as well as dumplings, vegetables and marinated side dishes.
The Buddha Light Mountain organization (佛光山), founded and still run by a monk who still Master Hsing Yun (星雲大師), has temples and religious branches throughout Taiwan, many of which have restaurants called Dishuifang (滴水坊).
Despite operating a cooking school at its Kaohsiung headquarters, there is no standard fare: the menu varies from restaurant to restaurant. A few months ago NOMM ate at the Yonghe (永和) outlet and cannot recommend it, today we ate in Keelung, and although overpriced (NT$110 for a bowl of noodles that might cost half that normally), the food was tasty enough and the environment quiet.
For those with a political mindset: KMT supporters will be happy as Hsing Yun is one of there own, DPP opposition supporters might want to stay clear, as he supports President Ma, wants the Dalai Lama to kowtow to Beijing, and once said that there are no Taiwanese, only Chinese.
One good thing about getting away from big cities is that prices can come tumbling down; one bad thing is that so too can quality.
This is not the case at TianCi Vegetarian (天慈素食; “Heaven’s Compassion” [no English]) in Puli Township (埔里), gateway to the mountains of Nantou. NOMM stopped there at the start of the famous Wuling (武陵) bike route last year, and two of us feasted for a total of NT$140 before the climb to Taiwan’s highest road at 3250 m.
Perhaps prices have gone up, but last year they included:
fried rice/noodles – NT$20~25
dumplings (水餃) -- NT$3.5 each
soups -- NT$20
leafy greens -- NT$20
marinated tofu, &c. -- NT$10~20
and with Dragon Boat Festival not too far away, they have zongzi at NT$20
When the Mother's Day cake with 30 whole strawberries on top (as seen in advertisement) arrived with mere bits of strawberries instead, Ms. Zhou got a bellyful of anger, reports FTV today (Chinese-language article here).
The manufacturer claims it is still strawberry cake, the Consumer Protection Commission (行政院消費者保護會) is so far siding with Ms. Zhou.
Last year NOMM tried to order a vegetarian meal in Mr. Brown coffee shop in the Muzha district of Taipei City. "Tried" because while there was one item on the menu, when questioned in detail the staff admitted that the "free" soup was made with a meat stock.
Visiting the Taipei Tzu Chi General Hospital last week--which by coincidence is just a couple of kilometers west of the above-mentioned store--we were surprised to find a completely free vegetarian Mr. Brown coffee outlet.
In fact, the hospital basement is a set out as a food court, and since the hospital is run by the Buddhist Tzu Chi foundation, all outlets meet the organization's vegetarian criteria. There are around half a dozen restaurants, ranging from Taiwanese rice, noodle, and snack meals to Western sandwich bars, and even a Family Mart convenience store, selling only the meat-free section of its food and drink range.
Address: No.289, Jianguo Rd., Xindian District, New Taipei City, Taiwan
text copyright Jiyue Publications
apologies that photographs are temporarily unavailable
Statistics compiled by the Environmental Protection Administration show
that Taiwanese in 2010 wasted 2.75 million tonnes of food, the
equivalent of 20 years of -consumption by 260,000 low-income households,
DPP legislator Lin Chia-lung was quoted in an article about establishing a food bank in today's Taipei Times (full article here).
Another interesting fact (assuming true) from the article is that:
US Department of Agriculture statistics show that more than 46 million
Americans, or about 15 percent of the US population, lived on assistance
provided by food banks last year, Lin said.
A Tokyo vegetable and fruit wholesaler has been caught relabelling produce originating in the nuclear meltdown zone of Fukushima Prefecture by putting "Made in Yamagata" stickers, reports ANN News (Japanese-language article here), courtesy of an English translation by EZSKF (here).