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The restaurant, a Grand Opening banner still flapping over the doorway, specializes in “dry pot”—a stir-fry consisting of a meat (including frog and rabbit), veggies and herbs (bean sprouts, cilantro), plus whatever else is available (one dry pot features Spam)—prepared in the signature spicy Sichuan flavor known as . In places like Chongqing and Sichuan, it’s a dish of convenience most moms can make. This time around she’s accompanied by two Chihuo readers who won a contest in which followers were asked to write a brief pitch on why Duan should dine with them.One of the winners, Millie Chen, a voluble mother of two kids, earned her place because she knows Wuhan food, which Qiwei Kitchen serves, Chinese means “human mouths”; a good, secure job is known colloquially as a “metal rice bowl”; and there’s an expression from the Han dynasty—“An emperor’s priority is his people, and the people’s priority is to be fed”—that these days is used to convey, basically, how much Chinese people love to eat.Duan was passionate enough about restaurants back in China to read the newspaper every Monday for its weekly dining column. But never did she think her two hobbies would become a livelihood, which is what happened when Duan resigned from an international marketing company in Torrance last August to work on Chihuo full-time. “I am so lucky that I can make it my career.” She draws a small salary, working ten hours a day, sometimes as many as seven days a week. In September Chihuo started a Bay Area edition on Weibo, and by March expanded it to Seattle, New York, Washington, D. She had only recently learned about Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging platform that is based in China but used widely among Mandarin and Cantonese speakers in the United States. greenhorns and restaurant junkies know about what they were missing, so she fired off this Weibo message, written in Chinese: “For my first Weibo tweet I want to talk about one of the first Cantonese restaurants in L. It’s opened until am, a good place for friends to get a late-night meal.

Duan’s roommate had taken her to Tasty Garden in Alhambra, the first Chinese restaurant she had visited since leaving Shanghai the year before to pursue a master’s in communications at USC. Do you want to join our is slang for “foodie” in Mandarin, Duan’s native language. Specialties: Almond Shrimp, Curry Pots, and their noodles and porridge are righteous, too.” Simple as it was, the post received 14 replies and 20 retweets.Duan and her team post about anything that appeals to their stomachs, whether it’s brunch at the Alcove in Los Feliz or a snack they bought at a Korean supermarket or ways to hack a bowl of instant ramen.But given that she writes in Chinese, it’s her insights into Chinese restaurants that drive traffic.About ten volunteers scattered around the country assist her (gratis) with graphic design, programming, and reviews. C., and Chicago (staffed by one volunteer in each city).Like Twitter, Weibo has a limit of 140 characters, but in Chinese each character represents a word, so that’s a comparatively lengthy 140 words per post.Duan says Chihuo is breaking even, without elaborating on the numbers.