| by Kenneth Chase | 100 comments

Why So Many Cambodians Own Donut Shops | AJ+

What’s your favorite doughnut and why? My favorite is the maple bar. It’s not so sweet, it’s caramel, they’re soft. It’s just one of my favorite thing [of] all time, all-time favorite. The doughnut shop business is Susan Lim’s life. Her Orange County, California, doughnut shop is just one of many that sprinkle the U.S. Combined, those stores and producers make 10 billion doughnuts annually. Every single doughnut I would took a bite and then throw away. I took a bite because I want to see the flavor of each and every one of them. Baked into the backstory of this shop’s glazed, dipped and twisted pastries is a detailed – and sometimes painful – history about Cambodian refugees. See, this doughnut shop isn’t just Lim’s life. It also gave her family a new chance at life after fleeing war-torn Cambodia in the 1970s. My mother’s story makes me feel really proud and honestly very empowered. My family’s background is so rich and so straight out of a movie. Like, these things don’t happen to everyday people. Lim’s experience is only one of many similar stories from Cambodian refugees who settled in southern California and then opened doughnut shops as a way to survive and thrive in the U.S. Hey, fam. I’m Imaeyen. And this Sunday we’re actually doing a story idea that you guys pitched to us. We’re looking at why there are so many Cambodian-owned doughnut shops in Southern California. “Hi Amanda.” Susan Lim says doughnuts have been very sweet to her. Definitely [the] American dream to have a business. It’s the American dream just to do anything here. America has opened up doors to many refugees like myself. Lim bought this doughnut shop from her parents after they retired in 2004. She’d spent years learning up close about the family’s business, because she started working in it as a teenager. But before her family acquired more than a dozen doughnuts shops in southern California, they were literally just trying to survive. When you talk about things like that it kind of brings back memories. The suffering. The starving. Lim’s native Cambodia was thrust into war when communist and anti-communist forces battled for the nation’s postcolonial future, according to professor Richard Kim. The war was an actually an extension of the Vietnam War, which consumed Indochina. All of it rolled up into the Cold War, which was an ideological struggle about the spread of communism. The brutal war lasted for most of the 1970s but the conditions it ignited had been years in the making. It’s the result of decades of colonial rule under the French. And in the power vacuum that was left in the ousting of the king in 1970 power struggles emerged over who had the right to rule Cambodia. Kim says the U.S. wasn’t allowed to step foot in Cambodia because it had been declared neutral ground. Instead the United States conducted an aerial bombing campaign that failed in its objective to destroy the supply line that was the Ho Chi Minh trail. The bombing killed Cambodians and devastated the land. This bombing devastated Cambodia and Laos. And this is probably one reason also why the Khmer Rouge were able to mobilize support from the peasants of Cambodia to win the civil war because many of them turned to more radical ideology as a result of the massive bombing. Khmer Rouge would go on to rule Cambodia with tortuous tactics and cruelty, including what’s become known as the Cambodian killing fields. They were sites were people were murdered, sometimes clubbed to death to save bullets. And a key moment during the war was when Khmer Rouge conquered the capital city of Phnom Penh in 1975. They basically tried to exterminate the educated class. And Lim says her father was one of the people who was targeted. Here’s how he managed to escape a deadly fate. My parents survived by pretending to be dumb — to be not educated — to be farmers, not educators, not teachers. That’s why they left them alone and not kill them. Her parents used their home as a haven for their children during the war. The Lim kids couldn’t go to school. Life was just about surviving the daily stressors of war. I still remember a little bit about it: being hungry; being starving. No food, no water. I honestly don’t know how we survived during the war. You have to wanna live in order to survive. You have to fight. It’s not a matter of choice. In 1979, the family decided to try and escape the horrors surrounding them. Lim was only about 12 years old. Like other families, the Lims paid a man to help guide them to Thailand’s border. Lim’s family walked for four days and three nights amid bombing remnants alongside hundreds of others seeking reprieve and refuge. They really didn’t take much. I mean we only brought maybe a few clothes to change, some food, a little bit of money. There’s not much to carry because there’s so many people trying to get out of the city — on foot, no cars. We basically walked miles and miles and miles. Her family made it out to a refugee camp in Thailand, but many others wouldn’t or couldn’t. Lim’s infant brother is among the war’s casualties. He essentially starved to death. Cambodian civil war would kill at least 1.5 million people, but the real toll could be up to 2 million. And even the bit of freedom Lim found in the refugee camp wasn’t a break from her suffering. In some ways, it was a reminder of what she and her family had lost and lacked. They were watching this lady bought candy for her children and my mom looks at me and she couldn’t afford it. And I just feel bad for my brothers. Lim’s family spent a few months in the Thai refugee camp before her uncle Ted Ngoy sponsored them to come to the U.S. That’s how she ended up here in southern California. She says her family was among the earliest Cambodian refugees to the region. Lim didn’t speak English and the transition was difficult. America, where is America? Didn’t know where and when we got to LAX it was so weird. Big tall people. White people. You know, you’d never seen white people. Her family arrived to an America deeply divided about accepting refugees. One Harris poll taken in May 1975 found that 37% of Americans were in favor of accepting the refugees. 49% opposed it, and 14% weren’t sure. 49% opposed it, and 14% weren’t sure. Even President Jimmy Carter essentially refused entry to 40,000 Cambodian refugees before later taking a more humane approach to the conflict’s victims. This was America’s climate when Lim’s family moved in with her uncle and began working at his doughnut shop. My uncle, he’s the king of the doughnut. His name is Ted Ngoy. Ngoy employed Lim’s parents, teaching them the trade. In fact, the very first night Lim’s family arrived in California, Ngoy took her parents to make doughnuts with him. Without him helping us, recruiting us, I don’t know where most Cambodians would be, including my family. Ngoy continued to sponsor other Cambodian refugees, hiring them; teaching them about the doughnut shop business. The many Cambodians who own doughnut shops are Ngoy’s legacy as are the pink boxes that have become synonymous with southern California stores. Lim’s daughter Amanda Lim Tang says her great uncle chose the pink boxes because they were the least expensive alternative. I honestly could see myself running this and I would hate for this to not be a part of people’s lives anymore. Tang is running parallel to her grandparents’ path. They worked for Ngoy for three to five years before eventually saving enough money to buy their own store. That store became two, and then three – and eventually more than a dozen. Susan Lim says her family’s story is an example of the American Dream. She hopes at least one of her five children will one day join the business – but only after getting a college education, which she says she was unable to do because she had to help her family. Susan Lim’s family is just one of the more than 2 million people who fled the region between the 1970s and 1990s. The United States took in more than 1.52 million of them. Some refugees landed here in Long Beach, California in a place that’s today known as Cambodia town. It’s filled with businesses owned by Cambodians. And now, some of those people – including those refugees who arrived as children or were born in refugee camps – are being repatriated to a nation they’ve never really known. The U.S. and Cambodia signed a memorandum in 2002 that said an average of 35 people would be deported annually. And that was true until 2016. That’s when the Cambodian government told the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh that it would no longer accept deportees until it had a chance to review the issue. The agreement allows the U.S. to repatriate Cambodians who’ve committed a crime – even if that crime is a misdemeanor – and even if they’re married to U.S. citizens. By 2017, more than 500 Cambodians had been deported as part of the agreement. And in the first week of April 2018, the U.S. deported the largest group of Cambodians ever. Immigration officials sent back more than 40 people to Cambodia. Lim says she doesn’t personally know anyone who’s been affected by the deportations. And what she wants is the legacy of Cambodian doughnut shop owners to continue. What I like most about working here is meeting my customers, my clients. Talk to them. Wait on them. Make them happy. That’s why I’m here.


Myriam Nichols

Aug 8, 2018, 11:30 pm Reply

I am so thankful for people who make great donuts.

Alexander Ream

Sep 9, 2018, 2:02 pm Reply

Holy shit they bombed us so we could come and make doughnuts for them!

Victoria Valdez

Sep 9, 2018, 11:34 pm Reply

Yoooo in the picture of the uncle (6:09) doesn’t the lady next to him look like whats-his-face’s mom from Buzzfeed?! ?

Tim L

Sep 9, 2018, 5:19 am Reply

I don't like this story. You took a inspirational story about hard working Cambodians who realized their American dream with honest hard work through doughnut shops and then you threw in a anti-Trump political bent talking about deported Cambodian criminals. I will no longer watch this crap. Stay on point next time


Sep 9, 2018, 2:30 pm Reply

America Why you bomb everyone and make thing worse??

Mr.Sneeky Devil15

Sep 9, 2018, 5:08 am Reply

We got some time traveling donut makers pause at 0:59

tiffany lim

Sep 9, 2018, 6:56 am Reply

haha in south texas (dallas) most of my family that are cambodian owns liquor stores as a way to thrive and make a living coming from the khmer rouge

POC Skellington

Sep 9, 2018, 12:42 pm Reply

Them donuts look ?

David T

Sep 9, 2018, 5:19 pm Reply

did she say she would take a bite then throw away the rest???? uhmmm thats not the view of a person coming from poverty lol

Lim Doeun

Sep 9, 2018, 7:42 am Reply

Happy to hear my fellow Cambodian success in America. We are in Cambodia and the vast majority of our fellow citizens in home land still live in a poor condition.

Prince Risen

Sep 9, 2018, 3:21 pm Reply

Khmer Rouge… the reason why I’ve never seen my grandfather’s face…

Food lover

Sep 9, 2018, 6:50 pm Reply

God bless


Sep 9, 2018, 11:34 pm Reply

They are cooked and vegetable oil’s which is trans fat not good for your health

Libby Morphy

Sep 9, 2018, 11:39 pm Reply

I went to college in Costa Mesa and one of my classmates, Lindsey Bright, wrote a book on this exact subject as her senior thesis. I don't remember the name of the book or if she interviewed this particular family. The abundance of Cambodian owned donut shops is one of those random facts that people always find interesting when I bring it up in conversation.


Sep 9, 2018, 8:23 am Reply

I need a donut NOW!

Tony Branco

Sep 9, 2018, 5:01 pm Reply

When migrants had legitimate reasons to leave their country. Today, it's "who can lie the best" that gets you into the U.S. or Canada.


Sep 9, 2018, 7:07 am Reply

Crazy my husbands old shipmate always told us about his parents donut shop in la and they are Cambodian . It’s called spud nuts

The Good Note

Sep 9, 2018, 8:45 am Reply

I noticed this! A lot of donut shops are owned by Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cambodians. Interesting.

Bentley Tran

Sep 9, 2018, 7:27 pm Reply

I left Cambodia 1990. Most of Cambodian came to America they doing well
But me. I'm about $300,000 in debts. I think i need to learn how to make donuts

Juan Nagle

Sep 9, 2018, 5:36 am Reply

Indians and other South Asians are the ones who own the most Dunkin Donuts, Gas Stations, Convenience Stores, Seedy Motels/Hotels. Southeast Asians are the ones who own the most nail and hair salons.


Sep 9, 2018, 6:09 pm Reply

The true story that not many people know about is China escalated the whole Indochina's war. That's sad.

Angkorian Boy

Sep 9, 2018, 8:16 pm Reply

Way better than Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts. I'm rooting for the mom and pop donut shop. All franchises donuts can go?


Sep 9, 2018, 12:56 am Reply

non-asian people and white people are starting to steal cambodian & asian donut recipes and making their own donut shops

DP Productions

Sep 9, 2018, 8:41 am Reply

I’m proud of her for being the few lucky ones who made it out of Cambodia and took this privilege to spread awareness of the struggles of those who weren’t so fortunate


Sep 9, 2018, 12:13 pm Reply

That human bones are disturbing. Bless their souls

The Mariam

Sep 9, 2018, 12:59 pm Reply

I read Cambodian as comedian and I was thinking why !


Sep 9, 2018, 6:42 pm Reply


Chad Jones

Sep 9, 2018, 7:05 am Reply

Give me some Cambodian punani


Sep 9, 2018, 7:35 am Reply

i thought this is where heath and zane gets their donuts and coffee at first

Kathy Ngo Ngan

Sep 9, 2018, 7:42 am Reply

I'm currently living in Cambodia. Fun fact. They don't have donuts shops 🙂

Sirius V

Sep 9, 2018, 7:45 pm Reply

In Cambodia, there are rarely any donut shops.

Jon MacDonald

Sep 9, 2018, 9:55 pm Reply

I banged the Shit out of this Cambodian Thai Chick in the Back of her parents Donut shop! I loved those early morning Flour Delivery's!


Sep 9, 2018, 10:53 pm Reply

Is that aunt Jamima narrating? WTF?

Simon Lee

Sep 9, 2018, 12:08 am Reply

Surname Lim, are you chinese cambodian?


Sep 9, 2018, 4:08 am Reply

9:44 Yum!!

Everything Kash

Sep 9, 2018, 4:37 am Reply

2 mins in, I Still Know NOTHING ?

Alessandra .Cuenco

Sep 9, 2018, 5:38 am Reply

definitely relevant in the donut shops in the bay area as well

Sean O.

Sep 9, 2018, 4:35 pm Reply

"its sad how the US doesn't take in all the refugees from a war they created."
"all Americans are immigrants"
Blah blah waaahhh waahhh

1. The US didn't create the war. Communism did.
2. We're the refugees legal citizens? Or just on a visa? If they're legal citizens they should not have been deported. Any other country on earth would do the same to us or them.
3. Americans never immigrated to another sovereign country. They made their own. Indians didn't believe in ownership of land. None of it was theirs to begin with. All they did was fight and kill each other, then trade us for guns and booze only to get drunk and start wars with the guns we gave them.


Sep 9, 2018, 12:04 am Reply



Sep 9, 2018, 5:58 pm Reply

Great story but for some reason I'm bothered by her saying "I'd taste each donuts and throw them away"


Sep 9, 2018, 11:55 pm Reply

In my opinion, i think Cambodia would’ve been as aspiring as japan if the khmer rouge never happened because of its amount of educated individuals and they’re business, for instance, my grandpa was majored in 2 degrees in Cambodia, masters in art and music as he was a conductor and writer for Cambodia’s king, yet sadly they killed him of course along with my whole other 3/4 of my educated family.


Sep 9, 2018, 9:30 am Reply

Because Cambodian food is terrible they can only sell donuts

Bantzhouze Productions

Oct 10, 2018, 10:41 pm Reply

Amazing story, incredible and brave people!


Oct 10, 2018, 11:29 am Reply


dcar 430

Oct 10, 2018, 6:13 am Reply

This video isn’t quite right. US troops weren’t supposed to be in Cambodia but they were.


Oct 10, 2018, 12:47 am Reply

Lovely diabetes


Oct 10, 2018, 3:20 am Reply

Who wanted doughnuts rn

KId Savage Boy

Oct 10, 2018, 9:46 am Reply

deport all illegals. we don't want refugees. maga. god bless trump and the USA.

Kevin Berlied

Oct 10, 2018, 11:16 am Reply

They thrive on donut shops in the US and massage parlors in Phnom Penh.


Oct 10, 2018, 6:37 am Reply

I own a donuts shop and it suck work long hours 7 days a week and make less if my husband know how to made donuts it would help that money would go to us instead to the baker, it was his mother ideal we had no saying. Some pastry shop open in a rich area you will made good income. I invest on property when market crash now I make lot of money.


Oct 10, 2018, 1:03 pm Reply

my favorite donut shop has so much variety in both sweet and savory food. but I always walk away with two glazed donuts and an small coffee

Bounmy Prasavanh

Oct 10, 2018, 2:04 pm Reply

Funny how I only see White Liberals on here pushing their dumb opinions on here. I'm Asian-American and my parents immigrated here around the same time from SE Asia, I got no complaints. Happy to be in the U.S. I don't see any Asians on here complaining, I only see White Liberals that think they know everything.


Oct 10, 2018, 8:58 pm Reply

3:53 T R I G G E R E D

82 Luft

Oct 10, 2018, 2:01 am Reply

Only in America. Great story.

Cam Sugar

Oct 10, 2018, 1:43 pm Reply

Sad beginning, but beautuful story <3

KNG Youth

Oct 10, 2018, 7:06 am Reply

Huh so that’s what my dad did.

Ivy Ly

Oct 10, 2018, 12:36 am Reply

its like vietnamese and their nail salons

Ivy Ly

Oct 10, 2018, 12:37 am Reply

and her surname is lim. she could most likely be chinese-cambodian. im chinese viet, my grandpa married a vietwoman during the war.

Duane Vasquez

Oct 10, 2018, 5:33 pm Reply

I'm pro refugee, immigrant, and donut

MAXVY Videos

Oct 10, 2018, 1:58 pm Reply

Love the story. Very inspiring

Amira Tora

Oct 10, 2018, 3:52 pm Reply


Emma Fallon Films

Oct 10, 2018, 2:46 am Reply

A very specific topic. Cool.


Oct 10, 2018, 8:38 pm Reply

l went to Cambodia a few years back. beautiful place with beautiful people…

Electro Spider XG

Oct 10, 2018, 7:51 pm Reply

im cambodian i didn’t know this stuff yet the bones ew BUT i watched the movie long time ago

Cutekitty slime time

Nov 11, 2018, 8:01 pm Reply

Were is that I want to no so I can go there

Dean Slegos

Nov 11, 2018, 11:43 pm Reply

Make me wanna open a shop right now

Richy Saing

Nov 11, 2018, 12:09 am Reply

That’s crazy! My family owns a donut shop

Cre8 Chan

Nov 11, 2018, 12:15 am Reply

A video that couldn't be anymore detailed ❤️

jeremiah .m

Nov 11, 2018, 7:59 am Reply

Do one about filipino barbershops!!!

jolo logon

Nov 11, 2018, 7:12 pm Reply

It did not answer the question though, why donuts?

Arif Azmi

Nov 11, 2018, 8:35 am Reply

GoodWay brought me here

Chloe Bun

Nov 11, 2018, 7:43 am Reply

so.. they are smart for being stupid

Emmanuelle Andri

Dec 12, 2018, 10:24 pm Reply

0:58 a photograph from the year 2024!~ I always knew that Asians would invent a time machine someday!

dodge driver

Dec 12, 2018, 5:46 pm Reply

ok my near by donut shop is Thai , which is way better

Proverbs Ministry

Dec 12, 2018, 12:46 pm Reply

The donut king!

M –

Jan 1, 2019, 3:18 pm Reply

love this video!

Nigel 0251

Jan 1, 2019, 2:54 am Reply

Love to see the Khmer Republic flag flying. Long Live Khmer republic, France, USA, South-Vietnam,Kingdom of Laos, Taiwan and South-Korea.

Ratanakpich Leang

Feb 2, 2019, 5:13 am Reply

I am also Cambodian and i have like 10 cousin that own donute shop in USA

Ratanakpich Leang

Feb 2, 2019, 5:14 am Reply

And my family is also a lim family

Skinnee _PP

Mar 3, 2019, 5:32 am Reply

You escaped my family survived the khmer ruge to but my grandps and grandma died

Mia Kay

Mar 3, 2019, 11:53 pm Reply

They look so yummy omg I want some donut now ?

Lyda Prou

Apr 4, 2019, 8:38 pm Reply

I'm Cambodian

xRoWx xLoWx

Apr 4, 2019, 12:15 am Reply

thank you for the vid i was always wondering about this… makes sense now


May 5, 2019, 6:31 am Reply

Ted Ngoy. The king and father of many Cambodian donut shops


Jun 6, 2019, 1:15 am Reply



Jun 6, 2019, 2:41 pm Reply

Very touching story. Great content. Love Cambodian Donuts


Jun 6, 2019, 2:42 pm Reply

There are also Cambodian Donut shops in Austin TX that are awesome

Edward Lomaseng

Jul 7, 2019, 6:37 am Reply

War sucks.

leminity splckits

Jul 7, 2019, 8:09 pm Reply

We have a great donut shop in Danville Va. . Danville Donuts.. and the lady who owns it is Cambodian.

Best Solution

Jul 7, 2019, 11:32 pm Reply

Great Cambodian


Jul 7, 2019, 3:53 pm Reply

Next video, why do Indians own so many Subways?

Aruka Kirigiri

Aug 8, 2019, 2:59 am Reply

I still believe Indians own more donut shop

KingRocket 360

Aug 8, 2019, 12:32 am Reply

This had nothing to do with donut shops…

k steve

Aug 8, 2019, 1:06 am Reply

Good topic, AJ has good talent in choosing its topic

primalsun 245

Aug 8, 2019, 4:45 am Reply

My parents survived the war

GOGO Travel Reviews

Aug 8, 2019, 3:51 am Reply

So nice cake and my favorite too

Branson Novsam

Sep 9, 2019, 3:55 pm Reply

Boys I have to admit my uncle
He is in America Arkansas

And he owns a donut shop

Bon Robinson

Sep 9, 2019, 12:15 am Reply

Please watch "FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER." Angelina Jolie produced the movie. Extremely touching!

Lars Chue

Oct 10, 2019, 2:17 am Reply

Infiltrasian with donut shops, spas, tutors, martial arts, asian dramas, and food.

Khmer Protector

Oct 10, 2019, 8:01 pm Reply

I'm tired about people talking about the Cambodian past just think of it as history if the war didn't happen you won't even been born!

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