And because of the geographic proximity of these neighborhoods, all these immigrant kids wound up going to school together and learning about each other’s foods instead of staying cloistered in their own enclaves.
Thien Pham, a high school teacher and comics artist, was a kid when he arrived in the city in 1980, as part of the large wave of Vietnamese refugees who made their home in San Jose around that time—attracted, Pham says, by the weather and the prospect of good, dignified jobs in the burgeoning tech and electronics industries.
What he remembers is how enmeshed the different immigrant communities were. In particular, he says, “There was a real nice Mexican and Vietnamese cohabitation in San Jose. A lot of Vietnamese people got into eating Mexican food, and Mexican people got into eating Vietnamese food.” The flavors of the two cuisines were just so compatible—all these bold,