Phnom Penh Noodle Shack, one of the better-known restaurants in Long Beach’s Cambodia Town, opened in 1985 in a tiny dining room with four tables.
Tan’s aunts and uncles worked in sandals, with no air conditioning, on a floor slippery with grease. The menu was simple: some noodle dishes from a village outside Siem Reap and a few side items.
Cambodians came from all over, squeezing shoulder to shoulder at laminate tables to slurp bowls of noodles and pork soup that cost just a few dollars.
“People would come here and forget all about their grief, and just relax and remember the things that made them happy. It was a place for healing,” said Tan, whose father worked as a waiter.