Cambodian vendors to become permanent part of FDR Park (Philly)

Almost every weekend for four decades, a Cambodian market has popped up in South Philadelphia FDR Park. It has been a cultural touchstone for many Cambodian immigrants, refugees, and first-born Americans.

“My first time tasting of our Cambodian street food was here at the park,” said Sarun Chan, 37, who was born of Cambodian parents in a refugee camp in Thailand during Cambodia’s civil war, and immigrated to Philadelphia when he was 3 years old. He is now the executive director of the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia.

He remembers as a kid getting his first taste of Cambodian barbeque on skewers in FDR Park, and sipping sweet, neon-colored cane juice out of little plastic bags through a straw.

“If you took photographs, if there were photographs back in the 80s, it looked like you were in Cambodia,” said Chan.

The marketplace, which is mostly Cambodian and includes other Southeast Asian vendors, has survived for decades, with vendors passing down their businesses to their children, with some formal organizational structure and little support from the city.

Now, the Philadelphia Department of Commerce has granted $100,000 to the Cambodian Association to set about planning how the marketplace can become a permanent part of FDR Park.

“The Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia and the Southeast Asian community have been driving economic growth and building Philly’s reputation as the big city with the richest and most diverse food scene in the country,” said city Commerce Director Anne Nadol.

FDR Park is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation. Park commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said the Cambodian vendors need to be a sustained part of the park’s future. READ FULL STORY HERE

Saijai Sabayjit (center) of Saijai Thai sets out samples of her fried tofu. She is one of three vendors from the Southeast Asian Market at FDR Park chosen to serve food at the Philadelphia Flower Show. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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