My first encounter or memory with non-dairy milk was as a kid. Way back in the 1990s. Almost 30 years ago.
Wow. *Screams in existential crisis*
On the weekends, my family would head out to the nearby coffeeshops for breakfast. Accompanying our steaming bowl of fish-ball rice noodles or some kuay chap, my brother and I would get a cup of soya bean milk as a drink.
Who knew that it would become part of the dairy-free milk trend?
Our first in line, Soy milk
Aite, so first on the list: Soya bean milk; or soy milk. Or for my brother and I with Singaporean accents, ‘so-YAH milk’.
It is a pretty common drink that people have for breakfast here in Asia. Hot or cold, sweetened or on its own! There are even almond-flavoured ones! And the best part is that most shops tend to make their own soya milk and beancurd from scratch. This is also seen in other Asian cultures around the world! For example, the Taiwanese and Koreans would have their beancurd in a savoury form. In fact, the soy bean is a very versatile ingredient of Asia as its also used for making different variations of tofu, tempeh, miso and doenjang.
If our parents were a little lazy for the usual weekend breakfast trip, we would be gently woken up, stumble our way to the sofa to watch Saturday morning’s run of the Powerpuff Girls, with a cup of warm soya milk in our hands. It was a sweet treat, something that we were rarely allowed as my brother and I were pretty sickly back then. A few years later, someone found a way to commercialise that homemade goodness into a convenience food. F&N released their packaged soya milk, called Nutrisoy and I remember getting excited about it. It was kinda revolutionary.
Mum got us a carton and to my amazement, it tastes almost like the ones you’d get at the small drink stall in the coffeeshops! The texture was a tad thicker but it was the right taste. Soon, they began releasing reduced sugar versions and even no added sugar ones! Their current line is also fortified with calcium and/or omega-3, which is great for people with lactose intolerance and are not able to drink cow’s milk.
Furthermore, next to cow’s milk, it has the second highest protein content as compared to other alternatives. It is also low in fat and high in magnesium.
Fun fact: Recently, I have been hearing about using magnesium supplements to stave off period cramps, or dysmenorrhea. However, according to Shin et al., 2020, there is not much proof that magnesium helps alleviate period pain as of now, but it is quite promising in the field of surgery, when used in the form of magnesium sulfate. It has been found that using magnesium sulfate would improve post-operation pain management, i.e. lesser reliance on painkillers, etc.
Will switching to soya milk alleviate painful periods?
I don’t know!
Fun fact or not, considering how long this bean has been passed down the centuries and between cultures, our ancestors knew that this nutrient-dense legume (as compared to nuts) is a good food. And thus, I’d say a pretty good choice after cow’s milk.
Fast forward nearly 20 years from the first batch of Nutrisoy drinks and the options we have for soya milk has expanded. There are more brands of packaged soya milk as well as homemade soya milk & beancurd stalls based in hawker centres. I personally still prefer the homemade ones as the texture is…thinner? And when it comes to heating them up again, I don’t encounter this:
A white film would form at the bottom of the pot, which would dry and harden as it cools. This makes washing up tougher than it ought to be. Plus, if one does not keep stirring, the white film would start to form on the top. Said white film would also form while I’m drinking from a cup! And that meant that I had to brave the heat and sip a lil’ faster. When the film does appear, I would push it to the side with a spoon. And then later on when it’s dried, I’d use the spoon to scrap the sides of the cup. It feels like plastic.
As I was roaming through the Nutrisoy website for this post, I came across a recipe section! Apparently, you can use ‘em for cooking. And baking. Honestly, my mind is blown. I might actually try these out considering I’m sometimes struggling to finish 2L of soya milk before their Use By date.
If you’re not used to soya milk, there is definitely a taste. If oat milk is not your thing, soy would be a good alternative for tea and coffee. HOWEVER, there are cases where certain types of processed soya milk do not go with coffee.
Coffee is naturally acidic. Coupled with high temperatures, this would create a perfect environment for the soy proteins to denature (or unfold) and aggregate (misfold), AKA curdle! The lumps are basically misfolded proteins at a molecular level, thus it looks like what it is to our naked eye: A mistake. Another way to visualise this is via laundry.
Leave a t-shirt flat on a surface? That’s the amino acid chain.
Fold the t-shirt neatly? That’s like folding the amino acid chain a certain way to form a protein!
If you end up crumpling and bundling the shirt up into a ball and throwing it onto that chair, it’s a mess. That’s misfolding.
I’ve tried a mix of Nutrisoy and low-fat cow’s milk with frozen coffee cubes and that seems to work well. Not sure about hot coffee though! On the other hand, matcha goes really well with soya milk. You just have to get the balance between matcha and milk right.
In case you’re macabrely interested in curdling coffee, check out this blog post by Common Man Coffee Roasters. In it, they share the how’s and why’s of mixing soya milk with coffee and which brands to use. Other than that, they do well on its own with a little bit of sugar (the traditional way) and/or turmeric and it also goes great with fruits in a smoothie!
Will the taste of the milk affect the flavours?
Well, it’s not as pungent scented as almond milk, for sure. The texture is slightly thinner than milk because there’s lesser fat. Thus, it’s not as creamy as regular dairy. But considering how versatile this bean is, and how it seems to go well with most drinks, I’d say its a good starter for trying out non-dairy milk.
So to my Asian friends out there looking for a cheap alternative to cow’s milk, look no further than the tau huay zui you had for breakfast. However, do remember that the ones freshly made in markets are not fortified! If you hail from the west, then word has it that that the soy milk used there is quite different as compared to the ones used here. For Starbucks, I mean. I haven’t tried soy milk from the UK so I can’t be fair about its taste.
Lastly, a quick PSA: SOYA THINGS & LEGUMES DO NOT INCREASE THE RISK OF GOUT. Like everything else to do with food and diets, everything in moderation guys!
Soya in the next one,