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'I want to promote vegetarian food to more people': Bukit Batok stall owner offers $1.80 meals for over 20 years

'I want to promote vegetarian food to more people': Bukit Batok stall owner offers $1.80 meals for over 20 years
Vivianne Lie started her first vegetarian food stall in Bukit Batok in 2000, and runs three stalls today.
PHOTO: Vivianne Lie

At 1am, many people would be asleep or just going to bed, but hawker Vivianne Lie is just starting her day and getting prepped to serve the morning breakfast crowd.

The 56-year-old owns three vegetarian food stalls — called Xi Shi Fu Vegetarian — in Bukit Batok, Bukit Purmei and Bukit Merah, which sell items like vegetarian bak kut teh and mutton curry. 

But her signature offering is the budget vegetarian meal, which costs just $1.80 at the Bukit Batok stall. The price has remained the same since she started the stall at Block 373 Bukit Batok Street 31 in 2000.

At the Bukit Purmei stall, which opened in 2014, the same meal is priced at $1.70 (small) and $2.20 (big), while it costs $2.50 at the Bukit Merah stall, which opened in 2020.

The meals at the Bukit Batok and Bukit Purmei outlets come with five dishes while the one offered at Bukit Merah has four dishes. 

Vivianne has kept prices at all three stalls the same over the years and has no intention of changing that, she told AsiaOne.

Wants more people to try vegetarian food

She explained that she wants more people to try vegetarian food. 

"I think not many people take vegetarian food. I want to promote vegetarian food to more people, so I'm selling it at a low price to attract more people to try such food."

How does she manage to maintain such low prices in the face of rising costs? Vivianne said the monthly rental for the three stalls is around $12,000. 

She admitted that for a period, she did struggle with costs because of the Covid-19 pandemic and food inflation. 

And while she refuses to increase prices for her budget meals, she has done so for her other menu items, which helps cover these costs. 

Sometimes, she added, customers who order the budget meals will top up for more ingredients. "They think my prices are very cheap, so they top up by a few dollars more." 

But there are customers who still can't afford to pay for her budget meals. Some have asked her if they could pay $1.50 or less — requests that Vivianne would agree to.

She also gives free meals to the needy at her Bukit Batok stall. "These are usually the elderly or people who are not working," the hawker added.  

From secretary to hawker 

Vivianne's Bukit Batok stall opens from 4.30am to 12pm daily, while the other two operate from around 6am to 2.30pm daily. 

She juggles between the stalls, and her parents and employees help her with the cooking. 

Because she wakes at 1am, she goes to bed at 6pm to 7pm, and has her dinner at 3pm to 4pm.

Before she became a hawker, Vivianne was a human resources secretary. 

"After four years of working, I decided to set up my own vegetarian stall," she said. 

ALSO READ: Lawyer chooses hawker life, sells $2.50 dishes to help poor elderly

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