Exploring Vegan Cafes in Taipei: Meet the founder of Ooh Cha Cha

HungryinTaipei interviews Mai Bach, founder of vegan cafe Ooh Cha Cha

Photo courtesy of Mai Bach

Photo courtesy of Mai Bach

Can You Introduce Yourself?
Born and raised in Orange County, CA. After graduating from UCLA in 2008, I moved to Taiwan with my then boyfriend, now husband, to travel and live abroad. I became fully vegetarian in 2010 and after a serious decline in health in 2011, I researched holistic ways of healing my body, which led me down the path to plant-based veganism. Many reasons contribute to why I choose this lifestyle, health, sustainability, not contributing to animal cruelty and I have believe it is a much easier choice to make now with all the options and innovation happening.

Why did you open Ooh Cha Cha?
I opened Ooh Cha Cha in November of 2013, over three years ago. Our concept was very untested in Taipei at the time - vegan, plant-based, whole foods. Taipei is a very vegetarian and Buddhist vegan friendly city with not much of a spotlight on nutrition and health. That is definitely changing, but before recent years it was hard to find a place to eat that was actually healthy and careful about their ingredient selection. At the time, we had to really educate people on all the differences between vegetarian, Buddhist vegan, vegan, plant-based and whole-food cooking. We still do, but that's where our passion lies. I think vegan food gets a bad rap for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest misconceptions is that if it is healthy and doesn't have animal products, it's not delicious. We work endlessly to try and break that stereotype.

(Photo courtesy of HungryinTaipei)

Why should people try vegan food?
Vegan food is the path we have to embrace to ensure a better future on a personal, spiritual, and practical level. It's extremely nourishing for the body when it is plant-based and whole foods centric, you are doing minimal harm to other beings and the environmental impact is exponentially less than the current factory farming industrial complex.

Where did you find vegan options before opening your restaurant?
When I first turned vegetarian, it was really easy to find options at many restaurants or find dedicated vegetarian places. However, when I made the switch to vegan my options decreased drastically to mostly dedicated Buddhist vegan restaurants and buffets or Loving Hut franchises. I do still love these places, but variety and healthy options were lacking.

(Photo courtesy of HungryinTaipei)

What sets you apart from other vegetarian or vegan restaurants in Taipei?
Our mission from the beginning has been to educate. Educate consumers about veganism, the effects of our dietary choices, ingredients, quality and healthy living in general. Our driving force is to show the community how delicious eating a truly healthy and plant-based diet can be. We work to illustrate that philosophy with the ingredients we work with and how we prepare the food, for example we never deep-fry or use canned beans. I hope that our integrity and care set us apart, and our customers trust us to feed them food that is nutritious and tasty.

What are your favorite dishes or the best sellers?
My favorite go-to dish is the Tofu Banh Mi. It was one of the first dishes I conceptualized and harkens to my upbringing.
Last year we launched a revamped menu and the best sellers are the Balsamic Mushroom bowl, our veganized bacon cheeseburger and the Saigon bowl, a rice bowl version of our tofu Banh Mi.

(Photo courtesy of HungryinTaipei)

What were some obstacles in opening Ooh Cha Cha?
Our biggest obstacle was and is educating people on food and what they are actually paying for. Our store is pretty humble in terms of aesthetics and presentation, as a first time business owner I put all of our efforts into the food and sometimes the customer didn't always understand how certain things were priced.

What do you see as the future of vegan food?
The future of vegan food is boundless in Taipei. It continues to grow and I hope and work towards Taipei's vegan scene being just as, if not more vibrant than other places in the world.

Ooh Cha Cha location and contact info:
No. 207, Nanchang Road, Section 2, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, 100
​Phone: 02-2367-7133
Ooh Cha Cha website