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Khmer Satay Noodle House owner Hamish Te (62), on business in Christchurch yesterday, said he was a refugee from the Cambodian genocide and settled in Dunedin in 1979.
He started selling chicken and beef satay from a stall on August 6, 1988, between 11am and 3pm, in the lower Octagon.
A front-page article in the Otago Daily Times about the stall opening had people queuing to buy the cuisine.
''We were so so busy on that first day. I served at least 200 people, It was a long queue.''
Asian restaurants were limited to Chinese at the time, he said.
He sold the stall three years later and started the Khmer Satay Noodle House in George St and began manufacturing peanut sauce for South Island supermarkets in 1991.
He went on to open more restaurants in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland, Hastings, Palmerston North, Levin, Hamilton and North Shore.
He sold many of the restaurants to staff members, who were often family or friends, he said.
''I have to travel nearly every day. I'm flying out of different airports up to three times a day helping friends in the regions.''
Being in business with people he trusted made business life easier, he said.
Mr Te's daughter-in-law Kimleanng Ek (44) said she came to Dunedin from Cambodia in 1994 after she married Mr Te's son and loved the city immediately.
''It was safe and clean.''
Her father was killed by the Khmer Rouge and her mother and six children had a ''very hard life'' in Cambodia.
She worked for Mr Te at first and bought the Friendly Khmer Satay Noodle House in George St in 2004.