No sugar/wheat/soy sauce in Taiwan?

Hi, I’m moving to Taiwan and due to future social events wondering if I can possibly eat any restaurant food besides like, plain steamed vegetables and plain white rice. Cooking at home isn’t a problem, what’ll be a problem is when I have to go out to eat with coworkers and friends and want to avoid trying to spend half an hour explaining to someone that no, I really can’t eat that bowl of ramen. I don’t know anything about Asian cooking in general aside from Japanese.

I absolutely CAN’T eat sugar, I’ll throw up 30min after even if it’s just a super tiny amount. Natural sugar, such as eating a piece of fruit or a sweet potato, is fine. I can eat mizuame, stevia, honey, and (I think) palm nectar/sugar. A tiny bit of processed/white wheat, alcohol, canola oil, synthetic flavourings and other artificial/synthetic/processed stuff will make me feel sick, have insomnia, get really snappy, and the effects last for a few days, so I avoid them as much as possible (I usually just say I’m “allergic to wheat and sugar” which rules out basically all problem foods), but at least I won’t throw up if I eat them, so for example I “can” eat french fries even if I’ll probably feel sick until 3 days later. Stuff like bean noodles and konnyaku noodles I can eat just fine, but the soup/sauce that comes with the noodles always has sugar/wheat in it in other countries, and I definitely can’t eat anything like wheat noodles or bread (I’d probably throw up). I can eat actual soy like tofu, just not soy sauce (since it usually has wheat/sugar).

No restrictions on anything like meat, seafood, fermented foods, innards etc as long as wheat/sugar/soy sauce isn’t added in there. I tried Googling for stuff like “Paleo in Taiwan” but apparently none of those guys have the problem where they literally can’t eat this stuff without getting sick, they just choose not to eat it, so I basically got a bunch of results that actually has sugar and wheat added in.

So what I’m wondering is, for example, if you order fried rice does it always have soy sauce or sugar added in? Does grilled meat always come with sauce (ex. in Japan you can order “salt flavour” which has no sauce)? Can you always choose to have plain hot water for hot pot broth? Try to keep in mind that when I first arrive my Chinese will be limited so just assume that I can’t really talk to the staff to confirm/ask anything. Thanks in advance!

I’d say Japanese style restaurants would be your best bet, plenty of options with no weird sauces or wheat based products.
Subway salad can be a great “fastfood” meal, and you can order double meat if you’re particularly hungry.
Many restaurants serve noodles made from rice or green beans. Most Family Mart stores have steamed/grilled sweet potatoes, great for a snack.
As for sauces and seasonings I think it would be too difficult to make general suggestions, each restaurant prepares things in different ways and uses different ingredients.
Mos burger serves burger with rice-made buns, but for the sauces/seasonings…no idea.

Being completely honest here…
I think eating out will be problematic for you here.
99% of restaurants here don’t handle “requests” very well. What you see is what you get.

I think your best bet would be vegetarian restaurants, but even they use sauces to add flavor and soy sauce is king here.

Grilled meat at Taiwanese bbq restaurants where you grill your own meat is usually served with sauce on the side.


Thanks, I can barely eat anything besides sashimi, grilled meat and natto at Japanese restaurants in Japan (ex. sushi rice, fried eggs and all soups have sugar) so I’m not sure what other choices there might be at Japanese restaurants in Taiwan. Food without sauce/seasoning is just fine and is what I’m used to eating, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to actually explain that in Chinese (in my experience in Japan places will even refuse to serve you if you say you ex. want plain hot water instead of their special noodle soup broth, but Taiwan might be different).

Yeah, normally when I go out in Japan I just grab a sweet potato, fruit or some convenience store rice ball that has stevia in it, but you can’t really do that when you’re supposed to be going out to eat at a restaurant with other people.

Ahh I didn’t know Mos Burger serves those, cool!! Next time I go to town I’ll check one out haha. In my own country you could buy stuff like hamburgers with lettuce instead of bread, but there wasn’t a guarentee that the meat didn’t have sugar in it.

EDIT: Looks like they automatically put a sauce on the rice burger buns. Sigh.

I guess u can try out vegetarian buffets.

Bring your own salt, pepper, best soy sauce u can trust wherever u go, and look at the waiter dead serious in the eye, tell him absolutely no soy sauce for your dish otherwise you’re gonna die and the blood in on his hands! (Ask a friend to teach u how to say it in Chinese and memorize it)

Also, have your meds prepared…

And maybe try to fix your allergy/immune system too.

Here, they probably won’t refuse service. However, asking for anything not on the menu or cooked a different way will net you a server who looks like a deer in headlights. They just can’t compute doing anything not on the menu. You can try, but good luck.

Here’s a link to Mos Burger’s menu, you can see many burgers are made from a rice bun with quinoa seeds. As for the stuff inside the bun, I have no idea if it will be ok for you.
Subway salad will be 100% safe, they can season it with olive oil or even no sauce and you can bring your own stuff.
For other restaurants, I’m afraid the only way would be to go 1 by 1 and see what they have.
Barbecue food here is extremely popular and you usually have to cook it yourself, so you can bbq meat/fish/veggies as you like and avoid any weird sauces.

I think that asking a hot pot restaurant if they use sugar as ingredient in their stocks would be a conversational nightmare, but you can definitely try.

Thanks, looks like Mos Burger’s rice buns have a sauce on one side (from what I saw on their Japanese website — which of course doesn’t list sugar in the ingredient lists) but the Taiwanese ones look different so I’ll check the Taiwanese site out. Meat grilling places sound great, I’ve never done them so I forgot they existed, thanks!

From my experience, waiters know nothing about what’s in the food and take a really long time to ask the chefs, and half the time the restaurant doesn’t really know either (like, maybe their soup stock is actually bought from somewhere and just carted to the restaurant) so I definitely, if possible, want to minimize having to speak to the waiter for multiple reasons.

That was a long read and I’m still not sure what you can and cannot eat. Maybe you can make a good/bad list.

Restaurants don’t do well with special requests. Lots of dishes have a sauce with some type of sugar. Avoid dishes that require rice. One trick I learned in Taiwan is look at everyone’s plate for ideas. Use Google maps photos for ideas. There are a lot of buffet and pay-by-weight places once you recognize them cheap and easy to point at what you want.

Fried rice is made with soy sauce.

Grilled meat comes without sauce but most meat dishes have some sauce included in the dish.

Maybe consider a modified Keto diet. Avoids sugars like rice, bread, sauces… It helps me avoid all those. Ketogenic "Keto" diet in Taiwan

Tough. I’m gluten free here. I’m not as sensitive as you but for certain a single mantou will do me in for days.

Bear in mind in Taiwanese restaurants it is usually the cheapie hydrolyzed soy sauce with no wheat protein anyway. Quality of ingredients is not high on the radar.

it doesn’t take long to learn all the Chinese characters on a restaurant menu, the local xiao chi type places all serve the same stuff. I could read off most characters on most menus after a short stay. You can take home a menu to practice. You can get a side of stewed or grilled meat sometimes. Favour clear soups and stews (qing duan) as opposed to red cooked ( hong shao) or braised (lu wei). You can just say ‘bu yao jiang’ so that they don’t cover your plate in the generic soy sauce corn syrup gloop - I do this every time.

The tip on Japanese food is good, although personally I have found the sashimi fish here to be very disappointing in quality. Your mileage may vary.


These are three ingredients that are difficult to avoid in Taiwan, even in vegetarian restaurants. You never know and the staff doesn’t know, it might be bought from a industrial kitchen so no one knows. Fried wheat gluten everywhere, soy products, sugar is used in many dishes. Even stuff made from rice (mochi) might have wheat.

If you eat BBQ see too it that they don’t put their ‘famous’ BBQ sauce on it, they put it on during grilling.

Mantou, filled dumplings (might) have sugar. Sushi rice has sugar, they put sweetened Mirin vinegar in it.

Plain stir fried vegetables are available but sometime they put MSG or a dash of soy.

Even the plain cooked vegetables at noodle stores are a source of wheat as they are cooked in the same broth.