Is it Possible to Live in Taipei with Shrimp Allergies?

Hi all!

This is my first post on these forums and it’s a pleasure to introduce myself. I’ll be moving to Taipei within the next few weeks, and I’ve been an active part of similar forum communities in the past. If all goes well I am looking forward to being an active poster (I’m pretty sure I’ll have tons of questions!) in the near future.

I visited Taiwan for a month last year and the hardest part of my month-long vacation was my intense allergy to shrimp and shellfish. My reaction to shrimp is so strong that even a good whiff of it can set it off. So for example, I cannot eat at a hibachi restaurant or anything where shrimp is cooked out in the open. Also, I cannot eat food that has been fried in the same oil that shrimp has been fried in. Yes, I am really THAT sensitive.

It is my understanding that allergies are practically unheard of in Asian cultures, so eating out was a real nail-biting experience. It was also difficult to turn down food from friends. My lady explained to me that in Taiwanese culture “no doesn’t really mean no, it means ask again” ESPECIALLY when it comes to food. I had one experience where eating a small piece of fried tofu pushed on me by a friend caused a real problem for my evening.

I spent some time in Lu’Shan, which is much more rural then Taipei, and while I was there I basically lived off of vacuum-sealed dried fruit from 7-11 for several days.

I’ve accepted the fact that I am going to have to learn to cook, which won’t be that bad. I was planning on it anyway as I am a vegetarian, but I have the feeling that eating in social situations is going to be very, very difficult.

I’m looking for input from anyone with shrimp/shellfish allergies who is living in Taiwan. Is it possible to live a comfortable lifestyle outside of cooking for yourself? I am worried that a language barrier will get me into some serious medical trouble… if that happens are the local hospitals outfitted to deal with allergic reactions?

Any info is appreciated, thank-you in advance for your informative replies.

I don’t know, you’d have to ask the shrimp. Bad-da-boom!

It’s not that there are fewer allergy problems, it’s that they manage to kill off anyone who has a serious allergy.

The simple reality is that you’re going to get killed.

[quote=“MaPoSquid”]It’s not that there are fewer allergy problems, it’s that they manage to kill off anyone who has a serious allergy.

The simple reality is that you’re going to get killed.[/quote]

Pretty sure that the former is correct and that the latter is a high probability. I would say that dying is a distinct possibility even with perfect chinese language capabilities. Without it depends even more on luck and the length of your stay but somehow it seems like a forgone conclusion.

There were some threats about someone else with a severe shrimp allergy a few weeks back and he barely made it.

There is some basic vocab that will help. I have the same problem with tentacled creatures. Defibriblillation on several occasions in the UK, but never here. I know how to say “don’t gimme nuttin’ with no tentacles on 'em” in the ole CHinee, but I don’t know how to write it. They know what you’re talking about. “Bu neng chr nege dongsi” will work at a pinch, but there are better ways to say it.

Tiny dried shrimp is used as a seasoning in many foods … even in vegetable dishes, don’t assume vegetables means vegetarian in Taiwan, even tofu they spike with ground pork … so you need to be carefull

I almost lost my son to severe seafood alergies in March. I now cook everything that he eats, or he doesn’t eat. I even worry about the smells of seafood being cooked by neighbors, but so far he’s been okay with that. If you’re allergic to the even the smells of seafood, I don’t think you should try to survive here. Honestly. What would you do if you had to leave your house at ten in the evening until whenever the smell cleared out? Once or twice might be okay, but more often than that, or if you were already sick with something else and felt too miserable to want to go out? Ugh.

I developed an allergy to shrimp after living in Taiwan. Not sure if it’s related to the way shrimp are farmed here, or just getting old.

Either way, I have no problem getting food without shrimp, including that dried mini-shrimp stuff, from convenience store lunch boxes to restaurant food.

That depends on who you’re hanging out with.

Taiwan has many vegetarians. Being one yourself will be your best defense against getting anything with shrimp in it. If a meat-eater says “No shrimp,” some people may think “He just doesn’t like it. But a very little would be OK.” But you’re much less likely to come across someone who doesn’t grasp that vegetarian means absolutely no shrimp.

They are all correct! As I posted in one of my numerous rants about these things. I actually asked in all languages, had my wife verifed that there was not shrimp or fish and Bam! There was!

Many times… from a major Freeway restaurant to a class restaurant in Taipei 101. My friends tell me that the cook or server was not trying to be mean and they “Know not what to do”. And that I am wrong for being angry.

I’m banned by the wife from eating anything outside other than vegetarian, McDonalds, 7-11 hotdogs, hot spring eggs, frozen 7-11 spaghetti (meat sauce, not the new shrimp sauce.

Let’s see, this year alone I went to the hospital about once every two months. You’ll be killed…
Oh, don’t think that if you’ve found a restaurant you can trust you can stick with them either… My wife and I used to enjoy this Tepanyaki restaurant on a weekly basis. They understood my problem and they were really cool.

Then one day… they were wearing different uniforms… Same people. The shop either was under new management or they just changed the name. I noticed that they were doing things differently. But before I realized it… it was too late. They had EL Chefo, being more efficient cooking the meat and the fish together at the other end of the restaurant. Change of management… they seem to have forgotten everything.

At least you are lucky OP. You said that you are allergic to shrimp. I guess that means other types of fish are ok. My allergy extends from all fish, seafood and even seaweed.

Be wary; No required posting here. Nut products are the bigger problem but I think you will know if you order or are served tenticle stuff.
On a more personl note, I have a a severe death threating allergy to some chemical that is regulary served with fried oysters here. I just avoid the dust sauce. However, showd up at a pub and ordered pizza. I immediatle recognized an oncoming cardiac problem. Went home by taxi but should have gone to the hospital
They just dont tell you here so be wary.

All the posters here forgot to mention the sauce/spices. Sure you won’t have any fish/seafood in your fried rice but what about the gazillion types of fish sauce they use to sautee/marinate stuff in here? This isn’t a western country where they will use a separate set of cooking utensils/grill just for allergies. Don’t trust the cook here, they will not give you any seafood but the sauce/spices are in everything. The only way to survive a serious allergy here is to cook at home ALL THE TIME. You will have to carry your EPI pen with you virtually 24/7.

It’s bad. very very bad but not that bad…
vegetarian restaurants, McDonald’s vegetarian restaurants, and 7-11 hot dogs are usually and I mean usually/not always are safe bets. You have to always be vigilant. For instance… the hot dogs may be fine, but you have to pick them up and put them on your bun with tongs.

Next to the hot dogs is some kind of Japanese food that is very popular. It is a collection of every thing from tofu to corn all sitting and soaking all day is some kind of fish broth. Impatient customers will just grab the hot dog tongs and pick out their choices and put the tongs back not waiting for the person before them to finish and replace the proper tongs. .

When I’m traveling and am staying more than twenty minutes from some kind of clinic I only eat stuff I take from home. By the way… there is something in Taiwan white bread that makes me sick … I actually make a simple white bread with a bread machine and use that bread for traveling with peanut butter and jelly.

baberenglish, where can I get the Epi Pen. I’ve been having more serious episodes that took multiple visits to the hospital to get cleaned up. I’m not taking any chances since that last time… (posted in open forum) but you never know. I think I should get one of those things.

The doctors told me that you can’t get them in Taiwan, yet I’ve seem some promotional material saying that they are available. My doc was willing to give me the raw drugs and syringe… No way…
BTW… did you ever use the epi pen? I never have. It just expired quietly … thank goodness. And there are a ton of doctors where I live. But I ask myself… what am I doing here…

I don’t have to use one but the person I knew with one bought a box of them from the states. They always get them from whoever is going home for a trip. He has had the same GP forever so he explained his situation and got an ‘open’ perscription which means he can fill it whenever he wants.

You are going to have tough time here. First of all, most of the cooks have no idea about the ingredients they add; second, I find people are not interested in sharing what they add and out of politeness, they agree with whatever you want to hear.

A good option, turn vegetarian.

Apparently our original poster disappeared. He sent me a PM for obvious reasons. Though I did not have the most dangerous experience with food allergies, I sure had the most occurrences due to my weakness of trusting what people say.

Would I have come here if I had been told that I would have had so much trouble. I probably would not have believed what you guys would have been saying to me. I’d think that I could just be more careful.

Diomedes, I know you are checking these forums. Please come back to us. I for one really care about what you what decisions you made.

I’m tied here by family. And now that I’ve been out of the country so long, I would need some massive job retraining to get back into the swing of things in the States. Taiwan is doable. There are people here who must follow very strict dietary rules just for the sake of thier religion. They are living here just fine. I do feel angry that I can’t particiapte in the culture here fully Taiwan is very much a food culture…
Let us know what you are thinking.

Right, but it doesn’t end you up in an ER … if some one ‘misunderstood’ what you wanted …

Right, but it doesn’t end you up in an ER … if some one ‘misunderstood’ what you wanted …[/quote]

Correct. But I was referring to Orthodox or really devout Conservative Jews who live here. They solve the problem by not eating out at all or taking bag lunches every where.

If they can do it and survive and even enjoy themselves then it is doable.
But right… having this affliction is really hard. People do misunderstand and errors come in the stupidest way… Even if you think what you are getting is vegetarian or at least fish free, you will eventually get burned.

I used to love Subway! Turkey sandwich, Mayo, Oil and Vinigar. I would eat Subway each chance I’d get when I’d come into the city. Till… one day…

The ##^@^# put gave me Cessar Sauce instead of Mayo. I had a feeling something was wrong. She insisted it was Mayo. Stupid me trusted and … an other hospital visit. Now, I assoiciate that Subway smell, you know … the mix of airconditioning and meat as you walk by with Death and Sickness. I can’t even walk into a subway

Then… by the way… it becomes your fault too. Come if you must. If your siginifacnt other’s family understands and will cook for you or if you know how to cook. Otherwise… don’t…

I haven’t disappeared or died (yet). My flight touches down in TPE on 8/1.

My ability to live in Taipei hinges on my lady’s acceptance of my allergy as a reality. I don’t think she really understands the severity yet, despite the fact that my allergy has already forced us to leave a plane while on the tarmac in Beijing and it’s cut short a whole slew of evenings because we were out and I ordered tofu not knowing it was fried, or I ordered a tuna fish sandwich at a high-end bar ("Wow these seasonings are really something! Wait a minute…).

Due to the hurried aspect of my trip, I was unable to get a prescription for epi pens, and I’ve heard that I would need all kinds of doctor’s notes translated into mandarin in order to import them to Taiwan anyway, is that true? I would be willing to go in on a group-buy for them if someone is going abroad any time soon. Are they available in a pharmacy anywhere?

It looks like I’m going to have to only cook food I’ve prepared, which will be an interesting change of pace considering my girl and I have an excessive nightlife habit and a huge thirst for travel.

My next question - is Benadryl available over-the-counter there? I was surprised to see that 7-11 doesn’t stock it. Here in the states I can walk into any deli and get Benadryl (or Claratin, or any other generic allergy medicine) very easily. Where can I go to buy these products in Taipei?

Also, I know I can’t eat potato chips, anything fried, or anything soaked in the same water as shrimp (if you look at 7-11, the pans they use in their buffets are lined in holes and the water is shared between all the foods). Are there any other common foods which are seasoned with shrimp flakes? What seasonings specifically should I look out for?

And a follow-up, why would “Cessar Sauce” land you in the hospital? I’ve googled it and I think it was a mis-spelling of “Caesar Sauce” which is like the dressing for a Caesar Salad, am I wrong? Does “Cessar Sauce” have shrimp in it?