Taiwan has one of the best vegan/vegetarian food labelling system in the world. Packaged food are categorised into a few easy to understand labels.
These words are also useful in Taiwanese restaurants because they use the same words as well.
Even if you are not travelling to Taiwan, you will find the labeling system useful as most of the exported packaged food from Taiwan uses these terms.
Just by learning a few words, you will be able to pick out some delicious vegan food from Asian supermarkets.
Overview of Taiwanese food labels on vegan and vegetarian food
From 2009, Taiwan has implemented a law preventing companies from selling non-vegetarian food as vegetarian. A 5-category system is in place for better clarity.
Taiwanese Food Labels To Know
素 or 素食
They mean ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegetarian food’. Some food labels use these terms, but mostly they are put outside restaurants to indicate there are veg’n food.
Although it doesn’t mean vegan, most restaurants with that will have vegan options. Some places mark which dishes contains egg/dairy as well so that you can avoid them.
This label refers to food that contains the use of dairy milk. Items with this label are not suitable for vegans.
This label refers to food that contains the use of egg. Items with this label are not suitable for vegans.
This label is a combination with the two above, which refers to food that contains both dairy and egg. Vegans should avoid items with this label.
This label literally translates to “Total Vegetarian”. In almost all cases, it means vegan with no 5 pungents (Onions, Garlic, Scallions, Chives and Leeks).
Sometimes they put the word 'vegetarian' with 全素/純素 even though the item is vegan. Trust the Chinese label in this case.
In rare cases, items with this label can contain honey, which would make the food not vegan. The word for honey is 蜂蜜.
This label refers to vegetarian food with the use of 5 pungents. The item can contain dairy or egg. In my experience, most of the items with this label are vegan, but you’d need to check carefully for egg (蛋) and milk (奶).
Lately a lot of restaurant label their vegetarian and vegan food as 蔬食. The first character means vegetables, and the word together more or less means ‘vegetarian food’.
The term is similar to the ‘plant-based’ label in other countries, which means the dish is mostly made with vegetables and ingredients from plant origins. It doesn’t necessary mean vegan or vegetarian. In some rare cases, items with this term even have animal products.
Although not an official label, this is the Chinese word for ‘vegan’. Items with this label technically should be vegan without the use of egg, dairy, honey, etc. But there is not yet any regulations on this term.