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Inside Scoop: SUFOOD

We get the lowdown on the nutrition-centric inspiration behind vegetarian restaurant SUFOOD.

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This week, Head Chef Shen Ji Dong of vegetarian restaurant SUFOOD debunks the myths that vegetarian food is not tasty, and sheds light on SUFOOD’s philosophy to champion meatless dining.

Hi chef! Please share what inspired SUFOOD to set up shop in Singapore on 2014.
We recognised that there was a growing trend in consumers eating less meat, whether it is for health, ethical or environmental reasons. There were limited options at that time, and we wanted to open a restaurant that not only vegetarians, but even meat lovers, would enjoy dining at. We were offered the opportunity to work with WOWPRIME Group, the largest F&B operator in Taiwan, and this has led us to this joint venture. SUFOOD is presently the number one vegetarian chain in Taiwan, known for stylish and innovative cuisine.

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Tell us more about SUFOOD’s nutrition philosophy.
It is based around simplicity, an unrestricted diet that is rich, carefully prepared and featuring whole foods. SUFOOD’s approach to eating is nourishing, honest and unbelievably delicious.

What’s the story behind SUFOOD’s name?
It represents a vegetable and fruit. The Chinese word for comfortable is "shu" and “guo” is the fruit. We accept and embrace the reality that you are what you eat. We believe that mindful eating is not just good for the body, but also for the soul. Studies on the emotional health and mood have stated that eating less meat isn’t just good for us physically; it’s good for us emotionally too.

What do you think of Singapore’s vegetarian dining scene?
We see the demand for more vegetarian and vegan options, and our chefs have been experimenting with new flavours to meet the challenge. With more initiatives encouraging healthy eating habits and lifestyles, restaurants are also increasing the options for vegetarians.

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How does the menu in Singapore differ from the one in Taiwan?
In Singapore, the menu has a la carte items to allow more people to try the different dishes, whereas in Taiwan, only set menus are served. There is about 80 percent similarity in terms of the dishes that are served in both countries.

How often do you change things up on the menu, and what inspires you and the kitchen team in terms of creating new dishes?
There was previously no fixed plan but moving forward, we will create a few new dishes inspired by seasonal produce every quarter. The ingredients inspire us, and at the same time the food has to be wholesome and creative in presentation. Our chefs are trained to work towards that direction.

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If you had to pick one dish on the menu to represent the essence of SUFOOD, which would it be and why?
It would be the Star Pizza with cream cheese and wasabi tomato sauce. It even went on the Guinness World Record for the most pizzas made in 12 hours by a team on 27 May 2014 (when we first opened). Within 12 hours, we made 3,574 pizzas. Our team of 10 was basically kneading dough from scratch for 24 hours, non-stop!

What is the one main stereotype towards vegetarian food that you hope SUFOOD can correct?
No meat equals no protein. Our protein-obsessed society forgets that protein in meat comes from plants. How so? Most farm animals are herbivores (plant eaters) so when we eat the plants directly, we’re effectively cutting out the ‘middle man’. We get protein every time we eat plant food. For example, spinach is one of the best sources of plant-based protein. It has five grams of protein per cup, and is a great source of folate, an important vitamin especially for women. It contributes to strength, brain function and reproductive health.

How has customer feedback been since SUFOOD’s opening three years ago?
Customer feedback has always been our priority. Their honesty is vital for us to continue growing and evolving as a business. We do see many groups of customers bringing their families or friends to try vegetarian food for the first time, and the expressions on their faces are often the most impressionable. We could tell that it’s not what they expected of a vegetarian meal and true enough, when we speak to them, they often tell us: “I’ve forgotten I just had a vegetarian meal!” We certainly hope we have converted meat lovers to vegetarianism but that may be an ambitious thought. So one dish at a time, one meal at a time, we hope to encourage more people to be more conscious of what they eat. It’s definitely not something that will change overnight.

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What’s next on the horizon for SUFOOD?
The movement for eating less meat continues to grow — we hope to do our part to encourage everyone to eliminate meat in their meals. Moving forward, we hope to participate more in community outreach events and, should the opportunity arise, we definitely hope to expand.


Read what the community says about SUFOOD here.