Happy holidays from Silicon Valley! I’ve been visiting family, stuffing my face full of fantastic Vietnamese food, and generally having a good time away from all the writing I have to do.

Today my family stopped by Giò Chả Đức Hương, a shop in San Jose that specializes in Vietnamese meat products like chả lụa, nem nướng, and . Vietnamese women staffed the front of this very busy shop, but in the back there were a few Latin American workers chatting in Spanish while wrapping up styrofoam trays of bánh cuốn.

In Silicon Valley it’s fairly common to see Latin American immigrants working in Asian ethnic businesses. While they’re generally hidden from view in the back of the house, I’ve been to dim sum restaurants here where you have Latino workers pushing carts and calling out names of dishes in Cantonese. That’s a very rare sight in the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California, where it seems there’s a large enough supply of low-wage, often undocumented workers from Mainland China and Southeast Asia to fill these dirty, difficult, and dangerous jobs in the ethnic economy.

  1. Valerie (Lelia)

    Very interesting, Calvin. We don’t seem to have much of that here on this coast. Mostly families trying to make a decent living. I wish them much success as they are some of the nicest people I have ever dealt with!

  2. Calvin, this is an awesome blog post on an under-explored topic that’s ironically right before our very eyes. At least in New York Korea Town, I have always noticed how Korean restaurants and supermarkets are staffed heavily by Central American migrants. Many, I’ve noticed, understand it when their Korean supervisors give them directives in English. What a worthy topic of study!

  3. r.r.

    I have seen token Mexican or Salvadoran front-line busboys and food runners (not just working in the kitchen) in some Hong Kong-style cafes and seafood restaurants in San Gabriel area. Might not be as uncommon. The former Harbor Kitchen and Blue Ocean Seafood Restaurant on Garfield and Valley are just some examples. It will probably be some time in the area before Mexican ladies are hired and start pushing dim sum carts and calling out names of dishes in Chinese.

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