A Taste of Something New

Meet Khmer Sweet Basil, Cambodian restaurant and Night Market vendor

The Food Trust's 25th anniversary spotlight, picture of khmer sweet basil food truck

25 YEARS, 25 STORIES

The first time Amanda Soth visited Night Market Philadelphia, it was as a customer. As she explored the West Philly neighborhood of Powelton Village and the delicious offerings of the food vendors lining its streets, she remembers thinking, “We should be a part of this.”

Amanda's mother, Reaksa Un, had opened a restaurant called Khmer Sweet Basil in South Philadelphia a few months earlier, and she knew she and her family still had a lot of work to do educating Philly diners about the from-scratch Cambodian dishes they served. At the next Night Market, held in Fishtown in 2015, Amanda was dishing out fragrant chicken, beef and shrimp skewers from enormous grills. The line for the food -- including Night Market staff favorite fried chicken stuffed with pork, herbs and glass noodles -- stretched down the block. “People waited in line for so long,” says Amanda, “but they all said it was worth it. They wanted to try something different.”

Supporting the efforts of immigrant food entrepreneurs is a key goal of Night Market Philadelphia, now in its eighth year. With the help of a new grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Food Trust will expand that outreach in the coming Night Market season.

The staff of Khmer Sweet Basil now participates in food festivals around the city, and the restaurant has reaped the benefits of the visibility through a recent renovation, which doubled the size of their space. There are still many people who don’t know what to expect from Cambodian food, says Amanda, but “now there are a lot of people who come into the restaurant and say, ‘We tasted your food at Night Market.’”

Khmer Sweet Basil is one of the hundreds of small businesses that have participated in Night Market Philadelphia since its debut in October 2010. Learn more about The Food Trust’s Night Market Philadelphia.

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This interview is part of our weekly "25 Years, 25 Stories" series, spotlighting some of The Food Trust's diverse voices in healthy food access. If you would like to support our work, please click here to make a tax-deductible donation today.

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