Volk, a hawker stall serves up a different kind of hawker fare—grain bowls and yakitori. Its young stall owner Tan Lian Sheng shares his story of starting this unique food stall.
Out in the far west of Singapore, nestled in the corner of Taman Jurong Market and Food Center, is Volk. Started by City Harvest Church member Tan Lian Sheng, the stall doesn’t offer your run-of-the-mill hawker fare, instead, it serves up healthier-option grain bowls and yakitori.
Lian Sheng has always had an interest in the F&B industry and had hoped to start a business of his own someday. After graduating from SHATEC’s Culinary Arts course back in July 2007, his dream was finally realised in 2020, as Singapore began to open just after the two-month-long Circuit Breaker. “Many others wouldn’t think of it as the right time (to start a business), but it was the right time for me,” he says.
The 32-year-old cell group leader shares, “When I walked around (Taman Jurong Market), I saw many empty stalls and I just wanted to help out.” Liang Sheng found that there were stalls up for bidding. He was successful on his second try. “Rental is one of the highest costs for business owners in Singapore, but thankfully I got the stall at a low rate,” he shared.
Lian Sheng had started a few F&B business ventures which, unfortunately, did not succeed mainly due to high rental costs. He had also started home-based business that he ran during Circuit Breaker. Lian Sheng took the effort to deliver flyers around his community of Taman Jurong, but business was not as successful as he had hoped.
THE HEART OF AN ENTREPRENEUR
“Entrepreneurship has always been in my heart,” says Lian Sheng. “Even when I was working at a popular poke store, the bosses were very young and their success had me asking God, ‘when?’” he laments.
But not one to give up, Lian Sheng carried on faithfully. “When it comes to working, we want to do our best with a spirit of excellence. I feel like I have that and an entrepreneurial spirit.”
A few years ago, Lian Sheng attended a prayer meeting with Pastor Gary Heyes, founder of Speak Life Canada. “When it came to my turn to be prophesied upon, he said, ‘I sense an entrepreneurial spirit in you.’ The moment Pastor Gary said that I just broke down. I cried out to God and He had been so quiet, but that meeting and prophecy assured me that God has not forgotten about me. I once again began to have faith to trust in God’s timing again. It reminded me of what He has promised.”
Beyond Volk, Lian Sheng, inspired by the latest sermons and teachings in CHC about the Church Without Walls (CWW) movement, has signed up as a volunteer for Prison Ministry. “Helping ex-convicts has always been something that’s been on my heart. Being part of the ministry helps me find ways to support them.”
Through the Prison Ministry, Lian Sheng has been able to connect with ex-convicts, and one day hopes to hire them to help with his store and impart his culinary skills on them. “I just want to thank City Harvest Church for CWW.” He adds thoughtfully, “everything has been very timely.”
SKEWED TOWARDS THE COMMUNITY
When asked why he chose to serve grain bowls and yakitori skewers in a hawker stall instead of a restaurant, Lian Sheng highlights his vision for the heartlands: “I want to educate and encourage people to eat healthier through Volk.”
“To sustain the business, I started by targeting young families staying in Taman Jurong,” he says. But over time, this has changed. “I have had to take time to explain this foreign concept to the elderly, so when they come and try my food, it is very encouraging.” Lian Sheng shares that he thinks they like it because it is a refreshing change from the usual hawker fare. He also points out that elderly men make up a surprising number of his patrons.
Volk is short for a volcano, and as explained by Lian Sheng, it carries his vision to bring about change. “Volcanos are always brewing something, and the name is a reminder to me to constantly brew something new.” He adds, “God made us creative for a reason!”
The stall serves up a variety of grain bowls starting from the affordable price of $6.90. Much like a rainbow in a bowl, generous portions of colourful fruits and vegetables are served atop your choice of soba, sushi rice, brown rice, or mixed salad greens. Each bowl is also topped with a protein of choice (we recommend the Sous Vide Salmon!) before being served.
Made-to-order yakitori skewers, cooked over a barbecue-style grill, are also available. These yummy skewers start from $1.20, and range from oyster mushrooms, pork belly slices to chicken hearts. Be sure to also try their sake clams ($9.90) – live clams cooked in a sweet sake broth. A delightfully savoury yet sweet seafood dish.
Now, Volk is a year old. “The whole year was very challenging and I do wonder how I will going sustain the business, but God has spoken to me about remaining faithful,” Lian Sheng says with an air of finality. “God will provide, and the business will be a ministry to help others.”
Volk is open every Tuesdays to Saturday’s at Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre, #03-170. Check out its Instagram @volk.sg.