The Southeast Asian Market
Are you intrigued by Asian culture? Do you enjoy Asian food? Do you want to support a community of people who embody the spirit of Philadelphia’s brotherly love and sisterly affection? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re in luck. Because when you’re in Philly, you can visit the Southeast Asian Market. Think … the ultimate Asian buffet meets family reunion meets backyard barbeque!
Located just across Broad Street from the stadium complex in South Philly, the Southeast Asian Market (SEAM) has become a destination for local Southeast Asian residents, who bring family and friends to eat ethnic specialty foods not found in restaurants and shop for culturally specific goods. But the market is open to all Philly residents and visitors, so you too can experience all of the deliciousness and fun for yourself, every weekend through the end of October in Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park.
Originally a secret known only to a few, the market was born out of homesickness and a longing for camaraderie. A community of Southeast Asian refugees and immigrants adopted a section of FDR Park as their home in the 1980s. The area where the market sits was called “The Spectrum” due to its proximity to the Spectrum Arena – the former home of the Philadelphia Flyers and Sixers at the Sports Complex. For more than 35 years, this community of Asian expats cultivated an open community space all their own, providing a cultural hub for social gatherings, sharing of ethnic cuisines, and business opportunities through vending the best homemade comfort food you can find. The park was a green space sanctuary and a familiar, inviting gathering space to refugees who missed their Southeast Asian homes.
The food market started “on the downlow” with a Lao lady selling papaya salad out of her blue van. Her husband manned a grill under a nearby tree cooking chicken wings stretched out on skewer sticks. By the early 90s, a small handful of Cambodian vendors began popping up with their own tasty dishes. Word quickly spread of a place in the park to enjoy traditional street barbecues, spicy tropical salads, and colorful dessert drinks. On any given day in the summer, you could see grandmas and babies picnicking on traditional woven outdoor mats, with children playing nearby. No longer a place to hide, the SEAM became a cultural landmark and a place of pride.
Today, the market community has blossomed from the original Lao and Khmer sellers, expanding to Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and more! Each a part of the Southeast Asian refugee and immigrant narrative of Philadelphia, the market’s vendors offer many native traditional dishes, culturally specific produce, plants, clothing, and jewelry, as well as services provided by entrepreneurs speaking multiple languages. And after more than 35 years, there are even some new favorites being served. Stuffed chicken wings, anyone?
If you don’t have your own Asian grandma or auntie serving up “‘made with love” dishes, you won’t want to miss the Southeast Asian Market at FDR Park. The market is open every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm, through October 29th 2023. So grab a picnic blanket and come hungry!
The market can be found near the Taney Baseball field in FDR Park. The address is: 1500 Pattison Avenue & S. Broad Street Philadelphia, PA 19145. There are two main entrances for cars: one on Pattison Avenue at Broad Street, and the other on Pattison Avenue at 20th. To get to the market via SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transportation system, take the southbound Broad Street (Orange) Line train to NRG Station.
Click here to see the SEAM vendor map.
Pro Tip: Not all vendors accept electronic payments, so your best option is to bring cash. Also, if you plan to do some shopping, bring your own bag.
Written by Jenna, a local expert guide for Philly Crawling. A recent escapee from the corporate world, she enjoys volunteering and spending time with family. She’s a pet lover, self-proclaimed beer geek, travel enthusiast, and aspiring foodie. Join Jenna for history and beer on Philly Crawling’s Liberty Pub Crawl.