Leeds restaurants: The chef behind Rosa's Thai on why Leeds is the 'Thai capital of the UK'
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Now the founder of restaurant chain Rosa’s Thai, Saiphin was growing her own crops by the time she left school, and at 16 she opened a noodle shop in her parents’ front room.
People travelled from across the province to try Saiphin’s noodles, which were made with ingredients grown on the family farm.
Saiphin said her drive comes from the women around her - her mum ran the family farm, while her nan had a grocery shop and was the first person to teach her how to cook.
She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Seeing them work so hard all their lives to provide for their family really inspired me from a young age to want to run my own business.”
Saiphin’s ambitions took her to Hong Kong, where she met her English husband Alex, and later to London - where she opened a permanent market stall in Brick Lane in 2007.
A year later, Saiphin and Alex found a site for their first permanent restaurant, taking over the lease of a traditional and much-loved British cafe.
They decided to keep the name Rosa’s on the door in respect for its history. And the name stuck as they rolled out Rosa’s Thai across the country.
Saiphin said: “All I knew was I wanted it to be as successful as it could be, because we've put so much effort and love into our little restaurant.
“I'd never thought that it would become as big as it is now and that makes me feel very proud.”
Rosa’s Thai opened in Trinity Leeds in May 2019, serving Saiphin’s family recipes that are tweaked with seasonal British ingredients.
Saiphin said: “Leeds is well-known amongst the Thai community as Little Bangkok.
“For whatever reason, there are so many Thai people here and so many great Thai restaurants.
“It made sense for us to open our restaurant in the Thai capital of the UK to show the people here my recipes.”
The menu includes sharing platters, wok stir fries, an array of curries and Saiphin’s favourite dish - papaya salad with fermented fish and pickled crab.
“I get my inspiration from my family,” Saiphin added.
“Every time I visit them, I always look at what they cook and how they use what's available at that time.
“That's where I've learnt how to cook with seasonal produce.
“When I can I always use the ingredients that are readily available in the UK, like Jersey potatoes for my Massaman Curry.
“Of course, you can't grow every Thai ingredient here like galangal or kaffir limes, so with those I often keep them frozen to use throughout the year.”
Saiphin hopes that customers will feel like they’ve been transported to Thailand when they visit her Leeds restaurant.
She added: “I love it when customers say eating at Rosa's it reminds them of their trip to Thailand or that it inspires them to visit one day.
“All I've ever wanted is for my food to make people feel happy.”