Tag Archive | Sophie

Mainly I love Oatly

I’ve been a fan of Oatly, the Swedish oragnic oat milk, ever since I first discovered it in April 2006 when I was trying to combat a bad cholesterol problem.

While I was attracted to the product initially in the belief that oats might help in my fight to lower the bad cholesterol and improve the good, I was hooked after the first sip because of its smooth creamy taste, reminiscent of Jersey milk, in the days when I was studying in the UK.

After Oatly, I’ve never again wanted cow’s milk in my coffee or breakfast cereals.

Hence you could have knocked me down with a feather when my nephew H over dinner on Monday nite laughingly regaled me with a review that the Sunday Times had made on Sep 28 about Oatly along with a host of alternatives to cow’s milk.

“Like thick cloudy water,” he chottled. His mum, my sister, added: “Like dish water with cereals…”

(This teasing was because everyone in my family knows that I’m a strong unofficial evangelist of sorts for Oatly, gifting family and some friends with a pack or two of the drink to get them to experience the great taste).

shake well for best taste




shake well for best taste

As I’ve given up the print editions the Straits Times and the Sunday Times since early this year, I’ve not been combing the online editions as assiduously as time permits, because once online, there are more rivetting distractions than what’s put out by the SPH papers.

So, no, I didn’t read the Oatly review but post-haste did so.

Under the banner, “LifeStyle taste-tests some milk alternatives”, the tasters were listed as Deputy Life! Editors Tan Hsueh Yun and Ong Sor Fern, Straits Times restaurant reviewer Wong Ah Yoke and Rebecca Tan.

There were too small consolations:

  • The team dissed all the milk-alternatives they taste-tested and where there was any modicum of praise, it was of the kind “damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, and whilst not sneering, teach the rest to sneer”.

  • The Suntimes’ review of Oatly wasn’t as bad as my dear ones made it out to be.

Still, it wasn’t flattering, to say the least: “..bland and watery…tastes like thick cloudy water…the coffee becomes sour and the milk just isn’t creamy enough….looks like cereal in dish water. And like water, it flushes out the taste of the cereal.”

Given my personal experience, none of the taste tests were accurate. Seems like none of the testers followed Oatly’s instructions to shake the packet vigorously. If that had been done, it would have been impossible for the liquid to be anything but smooth and creamy but not cloyingly so. 

Worse was the price the testers quoted: From $5 a packet. As a long-time and regular buyer, I would like to know where they had gone to get a packet for $5? And I would rush there to buy a dozen 1 litre packets straighaway!

When I first laid eyes on Oatly in 2006, it was selling for way above the other cow milk alternatives, at around $4.80 per packet. Since then, its price has gone up and up. And has hovered at around  $5.95 at Cold Storage supermarkets while Sophie’s New Green Pasture Cafe sells it for $5.35 but I would look more closely at the expiry date there, because sometimes they are a tad close. 

Why some succeed n others…

despite being first-movers don’t, or have success so brief that the “new wave cometh and overcomes the first wave”, as one Chinese saying has it.

I mused on this last week when I found myself back again at New Green Pasture Cafe or Sophie’s at Fortune Center, this time alone, because I had just been on one of my irregular tho fairly frequent (twice to three times a month) trips to the Kwan Yin Temple at Waterloo Street for a quiet sit.

I enjoy going alone to a place of worship, as just as I like doing serious shopping alone– the other reason I was in the neighbourhood: to shop at OG and to have new batteries put into a couple of my watches by Win’s, (a friendly watch shop selling watch batteries at $3 each) which operates at The Bencoolen.

Hence first to temple then to food, be4 the shopping. Hence Sophie’s that’s a hop, skip n jump away from the temple.

Since I was alone, I intended to select my food slowly, rather than be bull-dozed by impatient companions into opting for something simple such as special for the day.

But as luck would have it, I saw someone eating something interesting right at the door and decided to have that, rather than hum and ha over Sophie’s rather extensive menu, with possibly hidden shocks — I reiterate, many times I’m not quite sure what I’m eating when at Sophie’s, except that it tastes good or rather, pleasantly unusual.

And so I was served this after I asked to be served “what that lady’s eating”, point, point:

... soba

... soba

...soooo good
…soooo good

What I was given turned out to be a cold soba hidden under a canopy of a salad of fine strands of red cabbage, green lettuce, fat beigy bean sprouts, and a couple a small pieces of brown rice crackers which are rice puffs made into biscuit shapes.

I was initially put off by the fact that I had ordered a cold dish for lunch, till I tossed off the canopy and tasted the soba doused with sweet but not cloying black sauce which later Sophie herself disclosed as “molasses”. It was certainly soba soooo good.

puffed rice bikkies

puffed rice bikkies

While I was enjoying my soba, I contemplated the constant stream of diners who came and went from the cafe. In ones, two, threes or even more; some dine in others go for takeaway. Many broused the shelves packed tight with all types of foodstuffs: some ready to be eaten and drunk; others had to be cooked. They saw and they bought.

Naturally, my thoughts swerved to Richard Seah, an ex-colleague, who almost 20 years ago published a newsletter, The Good Life, promoting healthy eating and raising awareness about macrobiotic diets and organic food.

I was an original subscriber, not that I was very interested in diets or organic food but mainly to support a worthy venture and also, the writing was rather good.

With partners, Richard went on to set Brown Rice Paradise in Tanglin Shopping Mall, bringing in such yummy (and unheard of at that time) drinks like Rice Dream.

Yet, the Good Life has gone. As for Brown Rice Paradise, while it’s still at Tanglin Mall, Richard has long since departed. And Richard? I did a google and altho he has several websites, most seem to have been abandoned since 2004 or 2005.

As the obvious grand-daddy of the healthy eating movement, shouldn’t he be basking in the sunshine of the movement’s growing popularity today? Doesn’t seem to be the case while the likes of Sophie not only have a thriving business dishing out organic meals to eager diners but also sell the products and conduct classes to teach neophytes how to cook healthy.

Apart from luck, I credit the Johnny-come-latelys’ bountiful harvest to tenacity and drive. It’s one thing to be the first-mover, the orginator, and so on, but when you don’t water and fertilise your seed of an idea constantly, your withered plant will always end up as the compost for the next seed that comes along!

Green pastures old…

After so much feasting in recent days, those written abt and those best not to remember, there was yearning for something less demanding on the digestive juices and less heavy on the internal circuitry.

After some absence, we headed to Sophie’s again on Sep 6, for lunch: my sister, maid Siti and mum. For a while we had deserted New Green Pasture Cafe or Sophie’s on the 4th floor of Fortune Centre, thanks to the write-ups abt the alternatives to Sophie’s at the Centre.

So had gone to Piao Xiang Vegetarian Food and Healthy Lifestyle, both on the second floor. While the cabbages rolls at Piao Xiang were absolutely delicious, the cedar shoot fried rice tho at once delicious and strange was swimming in oil.

Also, altho the pix of the menu reproduced on the flyer was colorful and tempting, the pix of the actual dishes I ordered when I went there with J turned out to be colorless and unappetising. No point posting them.

And while the food at Healthy Lifestyle was quite photogenic (as pix of a bowl of lei cha or thunder rice below shows), the gastronomic experience was ruined by another tantrum by our maid Siti.

not everyone's cup of tea

not everyone's cup of tea

She disliked the lei cha rice intensely and showed it by eating the dish grain by grain in angry silence, her head bowed to hide her ugly scowl. She remained stubbornly withdrawn despite my explanation that I had ordered the dish for everyone, not just her alone. That it’s a Hakka speciality. Also, we all liked it and it was Healthy Lifestyle’s dish of the day.

Now I understand better why some Singaporean “macikans” never take their maids out for meals or if included, don’t feed them, while the family sups. That wasn’t the first time Siti had given trouble over food but….

All at the table were affected by her sulks which meant I would hesitate to go back there any time soon, if I was with the family as that invariably means the maid comes along to keep an eye on mother.

That’s why we went back to Sophie’s by default last Saturday: mother wanted Fortune Center, sister D wanted to try Sophie’s and I wasn’t going back to the place where the maid’s tantrums gave me heartburn.

Laksa was the day’s special and all but me opted for that. I had assam “fish” which came with rice and salad: nice but not exceptional.

The surprise or the shock was that the laksa turned out to be Penang laksa, not nyonya laksa and I held my breath for complaints from mum, sis and maid. Thankfully, they accepted that they had assumed wrongly and ate up the laksa with gusto, possibly because it wasn’t as sour as the original Penang version.

Since everybody was in a good mood, I decided to treat all to the dessert of the day which was bubor cha cha in oat milk.

At $2.50 a bowl it wasn’t expensive, considering that oat ilk costs $5.95 for a litre, at least for the Oatley brand that I soak my home-assembled muesli in every morning. Even ordinary bubur cha cha in coconut milk costs as much in foodcourts and dedicated dessert parlours like Tong Shui Cafe and Dessert Hut.

delicious to the last drop
bubur: delicious to the last drop

Sophie’s new green pasture

Talk about making money hand over fist. That’s what Sophie’s “New Green Pasture Cafe” on the 4th floor of Fortune Centre seems to be doing.

It’s a tiny little place with a wall of shelves, a counter behind which Sophie n helpers do the cooking and about three tables. The room is smaller than a HDB one-roomer. A doorway opens into a 2nd room which has more tables. A few more tables line the perimeter of the cafe and those who eat there are eating in the common corridors of passers by and what have you.

I’ve been visiting this cafe since around 1995 when I began going back to the Waterloo Street Kwan Yin temple during a strange health crisis in my life. However, at that time, it was more like a shop than a cafe n the 2nd room (ie the next shop space) wasn’t in existence.

Don’t remember eating there back then but went there on the recommendation of Richard Seah’s The Good Life (a now defunct health and food lifestyle magazine) to buy some expensive but tasty sesame oil.

More recently, a friend who moved her office to the building introduced me to Sophie’s cooking. And while I’m not entirely enamoured by the food, it’s good and cheap enough and the environment while nowhere near Ritz Carlton is pleasant enough.  

Indeed, one of the tastiest morsels is about Sophie: my friend whispers what a great business woman she is; how she had let the place out to some other party and then took it back to run the business herself. This includes dine-in, take away, retail of ingredients/food stuffs that run the gamut from vegetarian to macrobiotic, and even cookery classes, at $50 a pop, for a minimum 4 lessons. She’s never looked back since and expanded to the shop next door.  

Not sure how much of this info is true but the redoubtable Sophie, always wearing a perky tho incongruously out of place cap, is there dishing out the food with a few dour faced helpers whose ages range early 30s to perhaps late 70s.

 The cafe is never actually packed but any time I’ve eaten there, there’s always been a steady stream of customers coming in in ones, two, threes or more. They are of all nationalities, with many kweh-los and Indians to boot.

This isn’t bad considering that it is tucked away on the fourth floor and there are other “vegetarian” cafes of all persuasions from the 1st floor, up to the 2nd and 3rd floors.

Perhaps it’s popular precisely because it’s away from the maelstrom of human traffic that sweeps thru the 1st floor of Fortune Centre, at the corner of Middle Road and Waterloo Street where the Kwan Yin Temple and a well-known Hindu temple sit a few minutes’ walk away. 

I don’t know when the no-name cafe became Green Pasture Cafe and when I looked last week, it’s become New Green Pasture Cafe.

The food is passably tasty: brown rice, salads, vegetarian sushi, and other vegetarian concoctions. If you don’t take Sophie’s set which comes with a watery soup, you have to pay $1 (donated to the Singapore Vegetarian Society) for the same watery soup which you have to serve yrself from a large pot. It’s also self-service for the napkins, cutlery and the extra bowl or plate.

If truth be told, I can’t tell one dish from another; even the “liu char fan” (whch is Thunder Tea Rice supposedly famous among the Hakkas and is the Wednesday set as a regular once told me) is strictly distinguishable by the fact that the set comes with an emerald green soup, made from heaven knows what.