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Social Media Kitchen Confidential

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KQED’s San Jose: The Bay Area’s Great Immigrant Food City is a series of stories exploring San Jose’s wonderfully diverse immigrant food scene. A new installment will post each weekday from Oct. 20–29. The title, "Social Media Kitchen Confidential," is written as though it's part of a Facebook post, with an illustration of a bowl of soup noodles above.A takeout container with Vietnamese clam rice, with fresh herbs, peanuts, clams and pickled vegetables all divided into different compartments. The speech bubble reads, "This is the best com hen I've ever had!"Two men lean over takeout cartons, shoveling food into their mouths with spoons. The speech bubbles read, "I know! Right?" "Where did you get this?" "I have no idea."Comics panel: Two men converse at the table, spoons held aloft in mid-bite. The speech bubbles read, "What do you mean you have no idea? This is amazing!" "You've got to write about this place."Comics panel: Balding man with glasses holds up his finger to his mouth and says "Shhh!" Speech bubbles read: "Dude, be cool. Keep your voice down!" "Don't you think I already thought of writing about this place?" "I can't!"Comics panel: The man in glasses covers up his friend's mouth. Speech bubbles read, "What? What do you mean you can't y...mmmm mmmm mm mm" "Dude!" "Okay! If you'll shut up I'll tell you how I got this."Comics panel: The man is describing a conversation with his mother; that scene appears above as a flashback. Speech bubbles: "So the other day I was going to a potluck and I really wanted to impress, so I asked my mom: 'Mom, can you order me the best spring rolls in San Jose?' Alright! I got you, son.'"Comics panel: The man is driving his car. Speech bubbles read, "So then, the next day I go to pick up the spring rolls. 'Mom, where's this restaurant that I'm supposed to pick them up at?' 'Just drive to the address that I texted you.'"Comics panel: The man is sitting in his parked car, tapping on his cellphone. Speech bubble: "Ok, now park by the biggest tree on the left and have exactly 22 dollars in cash in your hand. Text this number..."Comics panel: The man continues to wait inside his parked car. Speech bubble: "Now just wait a few minutes."Comics panel: The man sitting in his car is surprised by a woman who shows up at the passenger's side window. Speech bubble: "Here's your order!"Comics panel: Back in the present day, the man is again talking to his friend. Speech bubbles: "That day I learned..." "...two things."Comics panel: The main character is enjoying a spring roll along with a female friend. Speech bubbles: "Number one: These really were the best spring rolls." "So light, so crunchy, so flavorful." "Wow, these are so good. Thanks for bringing them!" "Where did you get them?"Comics panel: The man is pointing to an imaginary digital cube that represents the social media network. Speech bubble: "And number two: There is a huge underground social media network of Vietnamese kitchens in San Jose."Comics panel: The man's mother is showing him something on her smartphone. Speech bubbles: "So in an unprecedented role reversal, I had to ask my mom for help with social media." "See, all you have to do is tap this little house, then tap this circle that looks like 3 people. Then you find the group that you want, click this button that says join. The group is private, so you'll have to wait until they approve you."Comics panel: The man lifts up his glasses so that he can see his mother's phone more clearly. Speech bubble: "So if they approve you, you can see all the different kitchens post what food they are offering, how much it costs, and how to order. They even post pictures of all the delicious dishes..."Comics panel: The man is talking on the phone. Speech bubbles: So even though I didn't get approved, I got the phone number from my mom and called them to see if I could write about them." "Hi! I want to write a story about your amazing spring rolls! I think it might give you some good exposu..." "Click!" "Hello?"Comics panel: Man looks down at his phone, confused. Speech bubbles: "That's weird, I must not have been clear, I better call them again." "The number dialed does not exist, and may have never existed..."Comics panel: The man is being poked by his angry mother. Speech bubbles: "Then, like 10 minutes later my mom called me." "What did you do? You just got me banned! Now I have to reapply! Keep your mouth shut. Don't tell anyone you're my son."Comics panel: The two friends look down at their food, slightly stunned. Speech bubbles: "Whoa." "Yep. Now I have to beg my mom to order food for me. She'll only do it sometimes." "So when she does, I order a lot!"Comics panel: Man looks up, smiling, as he shows off another takeout contain full of rice, fried eggs, a pork chop, and more. Speech bubble: "So, are you ready for the most amazing com tam ever?"

Thien Pham moved to San Jose when he was five years old, arriving straight from a refugee camp in Vietnam. His food-based memoir about his family’s immigration story will be out in Spring/Summer 2023 from First Second Books. Follow him on Instagram @thiendog.

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