Saiphin’s life in food


From Thailand to the UK, via one of the most exciting food cities in Asia. It’s been quite a journey…


Our founder grew up on a mountain farm in Khao Kho, northern Thailand, where she learned to cook with ingredients that were brought straight from field to wok. 

Every day, the young Saiphin would pitch in on the farm or in her grandparents’ grocery store, before helping her mum cook the family meal.

By the time she left school, the enterprising young lady was already growing her own crops and by 13, she’d managed to sell enough coriander to buy a motorbike and start making deliveries to neighbouring villages. At 16, she took her first steps into the restaurant business, opening a noodle shop in her parents’ front room.

People travelled from across the province to try Saiphin’s noodles, which often sold out just after lunch. What made them so popular? Well, the cool climate of Khao Kho (more Northern California than South-East Asia) allowed Saiphin’s family to grow some pretty unusual crops. As she’d always been taught to use whatever ingredients were available, the young cook would surprise her Thai customers by slipping the likes of iceberg lettuce and carrots into her wok.

Much as Saiphin learned from this home-grown approach to cooking (she still uses a lot of British ingredients in the kitchens at Rosa’s), it was a visit to Bangkok that first got her properly excited about food. The smells, tastes and sounds of the street food stalls – and the sheer variety of ingredients and dishes available there – were a world away from her life on the farm. She absolutely loved it.

Thai 2


At 18 years old, Saiphin left Thailand for Hong Kong, where she took a job as a nanny. It wasn’t long before she started cooking for her employers and their friends. 

When she was 20 Saiphin moved to Hong Kong to start work as a nanny. While stocking up on ingredients for endless family meals and dinner parties, Saiphin got friendly with the market traders and shopkeepers of Kowloon City (an area that’s often referred to as Hong Kong’s ‘Food City’ or ‘Little Thailand’).

A local grocery ended up asking her to open an in-store noodle shop and this, in turn, led to a part-time role in a Thai restaurant. As a result, Saiphin spent the next two years fitting catering jobs around her babysitting duties and would often be cooking from six in the morning until nine o’clock at night.

Saiphin spent the next 18 years in Hong Kong – with some extended breaks in both the Channel Islands and Thailand. In 2001, she met Alex – who was running a digital marketing business at the time.

Shortly afterwards, Saiphin opened a Thai takeaway, followed by a sit-down restaurant named Tuk Tuk Thai the following year.

The pair lived together in Hong Kong for 6 years, before selling the restaurant and moving to London together in 2006.



Saiphin and Alex arrived in London in 2006. Life here took a bit of getting used to but our curious chef soon started exploring new techniques and ingredients.

Living in the UK can be quite tricky when it comes to finding authentic Thai ingredients. Of course, that didn’t phase Saiphin who went wild mushroom-picking and acquainted herself with the Jersey Royal potato (now a vital ingredient in the beef massaman curry at Rosa’s).

Saiphin challenged herself to cook authentic Thai dishes with seasonal British ingredients and it reminded her of being back on the farm in Khao Kho, where the family would use whatever produce was in season at any given time.    

Back in London, she started selling home-cooked meals at offices and markets. Although she’d make quite unusual dishes (fermented pork with crispy rice and red curry paste was a favourite), she’d often sell out before lunchtime. Within a year, she was recruiting friends to help deliver food to offices.

A permanent market stall on Brick Lane in East London in 2007 would soon become a stepping stone to bigger and brighter things. In 2008, just two years after arriving in London, Saiphin and Alex found a site for their permanent restaurant.

The pair took over the lease of a traditional British caff on Hanbury Street and decided to keep the name Rosa’s on the door out of respect for the history of the area – along with a lack of funds to pay for a new sign.