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Vegetarian food

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Vegetarian food has a long history in Chinese culture and, as in China, vegetarianism in Taiwan is primarily associated with Buddhism. At the cheaper end of the scale, vegetarians will find plenty of food at night markets: roast corn-on-the-cob and sweet potatoes, tofu, and a huge range of fruits and nuts. Almost every city and town will have cheap vegetarian buffets where you can pile as many vegetables on your plate as you like – the price is calculated by weight but is rarely more than NT$100 for a large serving. The larger, more formal restaurants tend to be Buddhist inspired (identified by images of Buddha, Guanyin or lotus flowers on the walls). Chinese vegetarian food ranges from simple, fresh dishes of green vegetables to more elaborate combinations of herbs, roots and even flowers. One aspect of this might confuse foreign vegetarians however: tofu and gluten are often cooked to reproduce the textures and flavours of meat (like roast pork). Taiwanese vegetarians, including many Buddhist monks, applaud these culinary skills – eating food that tastes like meat is perfectly acceptable if it doesn’t involve killing animals. It can be hard to find decent non-meat options in rural areas, where rice and local vegetables will have to suffice: note that many sauces, even on vegetables, contain shrimp or fish.

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