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Mami About to Take Japanese Street Food to the Streets of Portland

Former East Ender chef Austin Miller's truck launches within four weeks.

Co-owner Hana Tamaki sports a Mami t-shirt at Chopped Challenge 2015.
Co-owner Hana Tamaki sports a Mami t-shirt at Chopped Challenge 2015.
Adam H. Callaghan

Despite their mobility, food trucks tend to change hands locally. Case in point: Milly's Skillet, which is converting one of Wicked Good Street Kitchen's trucks to continue operating on Peaks Island. Not so with Mami. The newly-branded Osaka-style street food concept from former East Ender chef Austin Miller — which was announced in January and teased to wildly positive feedback at last weekend's Chopped Challenge — required a road trip from Alabama.

Now that it's in Maine, the truck will be inspected and painted within a few days, Miller told Eater, and hopefully launching "in the next four weeks." Tory Bridgman will help in the kitchen. Miller explained that "mami" means "true" and "beautiful," a reference to his and his co-owner/girlfriend Hana Tamaki's young daughter rather than a play on the term "umami."

mami food truck chef austin miller

Mami cook Tory Bridgman (L) and chef/co-owner Austin Miller.

Miller is confident he'll get approval to spend weekdays in Congress Square Park, which was occupied last year by Small Axe Truck (now the owners of Miller's former employer, coincidentally). Saturdays he'd like to spend in front of breweries, like Bissell Brothers Brewing Company in Riverside. He said he's excited to join the ranks of Portland's great restaurants, including his two favorite Japanese spots, Miyake and Yosaku.

The team were cooking Okonomiyaki at the Chopped Challenge, a dish that defunct Miyake Diner used to serve, too, "essentially a large savory pancake topped with kewpie, katsuobushi (dried, shaved fish flakes), nori, scallions, and benishoga (ginger pickled with umeboshi plum liquid)." Translated, the name literally means "what you like (okonomi) grilled (yaki)," it will indeed be customizable. The base version will cost around $8 "and can range up depending on what you would like in it," Miller said, including plenty of seasonal ingredients purchased directly from farmers and fishermen.

Other dishes to look for when the truck opens by the end of May: Takoyaki, "basically octopus fritters cooked in a cast iron mold, loaded up with the same toppings as okonomiyaki and sold three for $6;" Yaki Onigiri, "a grilled stuffed rice triangle for $3;" Yakisoba, "grilled soba noodles (buckwheat flour) with vegetables and meat or seafood for about $8;" Yakitori, "skewered and grilled chicken for $4 to $6 dollars;" and Kushikatsu, "skewered meat, seafood, or vegetables, fried."

mami food truck chopped challenge 2015

Mami at Chopped Challenge 2015.

East Ender

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