25 hawkers receive $10,000 each from Tiger Beer fund

Hawkers Samuel Chen and Pamela Loh are among those who received a grant of $10,000 from Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore.
Hawkers Samuel Chen and Pamela Loh are among those who received a grant of $10,000 from Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Ms Pamela Loh, 31, used to feel extremely frustrated with her hawker mother's long working hours.

"At times, I did not see or talk to her for weeks on end even though we lived in the same house because she would be out of the house at 4am and came home only past midnight," she says.

But she found a way to bond with her mother - by quitting her job as a manager in a bank and becoming a hawker herself.

After understudying at her mother's yong tau foo stall for four months, she started her own stall in Tampines last November.

"I don't earn much as a hawker. It's a huge pay cut. I can't buy the material things I used to. But I get to talk to my mother so much more now," she says.

She is one of 25 current and future hawkers who each received a grant of $10,000 from Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore today. The grants are part of the inaugural Tiger Street Food Support Fund.

The money can be used for all aspects of the hawker's business, except rental.

Launched last September on Tiger Beer's website, the fund is the beer label's way of helping to preserve local street food culture. It is also part of its street food movement, which was launched last April.

Tiger Beer received 135 applicants for the fund between last September and December.

Following a selection process which involved two rounds of screenings and an interview, 25 were chosen to receive the grant.

The selection process involved evaluating the feasibility of the applicants' business plans as well as their projected earnings.

Former crane operator turned hawker Glen Liang, 28, is grateful for the grant.

He opened Jenny's Laksa, a nyonya laksa stall in Ang Mo Kio, last October to pay homage to his mother's culinary skills. She was an excellent cook and had always wanted to run a hawker stall, he says.

He intends to spend the money on building more awareness of Peranakan laksa and getting a better set of staff uniforms.

For siblings Tan Wee Yang, 25, and Tan Yu Yan, 28, receiving the grant is validation of their efforts.

"This encourages us, that we have taken a step in the right direction," says Mr Tan.

For the whole of last year, they spent their weekends and weekday nights on more than 800 attempts at coming up with the "crustiest har cheong gai (prawn paste chicken) in Singapore".

The siblings currently work in sales and accounting, but are prepared to leave their jobs and be hawkers once they secure a stall in the Jurong area.

Their har cheong gai is deep fried twice, using two different batters, they say.

The public will have the first taste of their recipe next month at Kranji farmers' market, where they will have a pop-up stall.

To recent hawker Daniel Yeo, 28, the grant is an important form of recognition.

"My mother has always felt that it's very 'wasted' for me - an educated person - to become a hawker. I want to show her that this is going to be worthwhile," he says.

He set up a stall in Clementi last October selling mantou (Chinese buns) with various sauces, but is currently waiting to relocate his stall.

Plans for the second edition of the Tiger Street Food Support Fund are currently underway, and there is already one hawker who has his eyes on the prize.

Ms Loh's boyfriend, Mr Samuel Chen, 29, started up his own yong tau foo stall last August. He intends to apply for the fund when application details are released.

"He was totally clueless about cooking in the beginning, but now, his stall has better business than mine," says Ms Loh with a laugh.