One of Philly’s food treasures returns April 1st. What began as independent refugee vendors selling on their own in the late 80’s has turned into a formal organization. The Southeast Asian Market which consists mostly of refugees from countries such as Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia was formalized in 2020. However, the path it took to get to this point included a rocky history with the city as well as clashes with police and park visitors alike. The market eventually became accepted by the community as well as Parks and Rec and has become one of Philly’s best food destinations.
This year the Southeast Asian Market will feature roughly 80+ vendors. In addition to the previously mentioned countries, the market has recently incorporated Thai and Indonesian vendors to produce an even wider range of options for guests. “What it means to re-open this market is that family and friends, aunties and uncles and grandparents from the tri-state area – and all over the world – can reunite again. They get to taste each other’s food that they may not have had since the wars and becoming refugees, try long-lost secret recipes passed down from parents to children, get a chance to heal from those traumatic experiences and hopefully find closure, because this Market represents a safe space. This is all thanks to the hard-working people behind the scenes, our co-founders Jennie and Vina, Board members, and partnerships with Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia and FDR Park, who work together to serve our vendors, many of them elderly, so that our community knows the Southeast Market in FDR Park will still be here tomorrow,” states Vendor Association President Pheng Seng.
New this year will be tours where visitors can get an immersive experience. “We are also launching our own tours of the Market, so visitors can try out foods, ask questions directly with vendors but also learn the history of how our Southeast Asian refugee community helped to establish what we have today. The schedule for the tours will be announced April 1st on the website,” states Catzie, the market’s Marketing and Community Coordinator.
The market will run every Saturday and Sunday from 10AM to 6PM from April 1st through October 29th. It should be noted that there may be less vendors in the early months and later months as April is when some vendors celebrate New Year in Lao, Thai and Khmer culture and Fall is when many of our vendors take the trip back to Southeast Asia.
“Bring cash, try everything, share with your friends, ask permission from vendors before taking pictures or videos, tag us in your posts, and don’t forget hand sanitizer, wipes and sunscreen. Thank you for supporting our Southeast Asian refugee business,” Catzie adds.