Get There Quick to Get Your Pick
Words by Jessica Devenyns Photos by Ashley Haguewood
S-H Donuts doesn’t smell like an ordinary donut shop. It may look like one, but the soft scents of fresh baked indulgences tell you that you’re about to sample something extraordinary.
Every morning at two o’clock Socea and her husband Sarorn begin mixing dough for their donuts and kolaches. “Sometimes they come in at three. But then they have to go fast,” says the couple’s son, Vuy, with a grin.
Seven days a week, while the rest of us are deep in dreams, this dedicated couple comes in to bake donuts. Don’t be fooled though; these donuts are not place and bake. For each pastry, Sarorn developed a unique recipe based on years of observation. “He learned it in Long Beach from the other Cambodian donut-makers,” explains his son who spends his weekends working in the sparsely decorated but spartanly clean shop.
These long years of absorbing information were not for naught. A quick search on Yelp will tell you that these donuts have risen into a league of their own for East-siders. To explain the small cult following that they’ve generated on the east side of town despite having no online presence, Vuy shrugged his shoulders and stated matter-of-factly, “My dad took a bunch of recipes that he had learned and then worked to make his own.” Trying to elaborate on what makes his father’s recipes so unique, Vuy mimicked the soft airiness of the spongy dough between his fingers. “They’re fluffier. And light,” he finally proclaims.
The quality of this Cambodian couple’s baking is readily apparent in the glass front cases, which were nearly empty despite the early hour. What was left, however, was decorated by someone who has a steady hand and a penchant for sugar sculpture. Each donut has such a unique personality that it would be hard to imagine that you couldn’t have a favorite even from just looking. Once you taste them, however, the decision becomes even more difficult.
“I like them all!” exclaims Socea. “I eat maybe one or two a day.” She isn’t alone. “Some customers, they come almost every single day,” her son claims. “They just grab some donuts, and then they go to work.” This dedication to S-H Donuts comes with an unexpected bonus for the patrons. Vuy explains that, “Eventually it’s like, ‘I know you!’ So [Socea and her husband] pack everything into a bag and just give it to them [before they can order].”
Despite the continual rush of people pushing in and out of the door, Socea and her family manage to greet over half the customers by name. Not only that, but they do so in multiple languages. More surprising still, it seems that Socea’s sensitivity to the different preferences of the clientele has not only shaped her greetings but also the list of offerings in the donut shop.
In addition to donuts at S-H, you can also satisfy your cravings for kolaches and breakfast tacos, all of which are baked fresh each morning. “There’s a lot of diversity living around here, so why not make tacos?” Vuy says.
And he’s right, why wouldn’t you give a Texas twist to a donut shop on the east side?
Must Try! You can’t go wrong with the light and fluffy crunch of their glazed donuts! If sweet is not your thing, try the buttery, flaky croissant with sausage, egg, and cheese.
More Than Donuts: In addition to donuts at S-H, you can also satisfy your cravings for kolaches and breakfast tacos, all of which are baked fresh each morning. “There’s a lot of diversity living around here, so why not make tacos?” Vuy says. And he’s right, why wouldn’t you give a Texas twist to a donut shop on the east side?
The apple fritters are stuffed chock-full of fresh apple, making the donut more of a fried apple pie than fried, spiced dough.
Favorite Menu Item: The most popular donuts are the glazed, chocolate, and blueberry.