First appeared as “Vegetable Isle” in the November 2016 issue of Air Canada enRoute.
It’s just before 11 p.m., but I can still feel the last pulses of the day’s heat when I step out from the Xingtian Temple subway station in downtown Taipei. My Taiwanese friend Grey leads me off the main drag into a laneway. (He’s been showing me around this volcano-ringed city of 2.7 million people, forested boulevards, cellphone-enabled subways and more restaurants per block than I’ve ever seen.) “It’s on these narrow secondary streets that Taipei really lives,” he tells me as we make our way between buildings that are rarely taller than 10 storeys high and often under five. We pass breakfast nooks, scooter repair shops and foot massage parlours before we hit Tender Land. The restaurant is typical of Taipei not only for being in a laneway but also for serving vegetarian food that could convert even the most committed carnivore.