Among the crop of recent entries into the Miami food truck scene, one of the brighter stars is Miso Hungry. In a sea of burgers and tacos, the bright blue truck has stood out with a fresh take on casual pan-Asian fare, in which bright flavors and crisp vegetables abound. It's a good truck to satisfy all possible "deniers," as the quick service industry terms them, as well. Vegans can go for a tofu stir-fry, while those craving a little less virtuous fair can go for a spring roll, or, yes, a burger -- but with a twist.
Here's the skinny on Miso Hungry, which you can catch tonight at the Gas Spot on Biscayne Blvd. and 110th Street in North Miami with Jefe's, or tomorrow night at the Pinecrest food truck court, at 13108 S. Dixie Hwy. Of course, get the latest up-to-date information on Miso Hungry's Twitter account and Facebook page.
The personnel: Kimberly Killmer and David Pastrana
The back story: Killmer and Pastrana met while attending culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Miaramar; they graduated in late 2008 and remained friends afterward.
"I worked at Escopazzo and Indomania here on South Beach, and David worked at the Fontainebleau," Killmer says. "David and I both aspired to have our own restaurant, but that's extremely expensive and hard to come by. So I was taking a look at the food truck industry, and had gone out to Portland to check it out. It seemed like a great way to have a little restaurant without as much expense."
The two met one day and saw that their plans jibed, and they started making plans this past September. They finally decided on a truck from Miami Trailer, and got on the road, rogue-style, in time for this past installation of Art Basel.
A week in the life: The truck is out five days a week, usually with Sunday and Monday off to rest and re-up on supplies. Pastrana and Killmer are the only cooks aboard the truck, and do all the purchasing and prep work themselves.
A day starts at their commissary kitchen, with the trucks sauces and longer-cooking items, like the curries, started from scratch every day -- nothing is ever frozen and re-heated. Final steps are finished aboard, like fried rice and soup. The major challenge? Space! "It's all do-able, but you just have to take the constraints you have in hand," Killmer says.
The food: "Both of our backgrounds are in Asian cuisine. I've trained with a Japanese chef and an Indonesian chef, and it became obvious that our dishes were going in that direction as our menu grew," says Pastrana.
"Some of the recipes we have, we kept really faithful to the main recipes. Other stuff, we put our own twist, because that's part of being a chef -- being creative and trying new things," he says. "Our menu is also really flexible and changes all the time. Every two weeks we're introducing new items."
The mainstay is a selection of signature boxes ($8), which includes a main dish, fried rice, and sauteed veggies. Right now that means curry chicken, rendang beef, or sambal chicken, as well the tofu-vegetable stir-fry; a rotating vegan option is always promised. The Miso Burger ($7), meanwhile, served with cilantro mayo and crispy fried onions, is probably the only burger amid the Miami mobile scene that's made entirely from marinated pork.
Rotating specials change weekly, more or less, and have recently included spicy chicken lettuce wraps ($6) and a shifting spring roll of the day ($4 for two).
Thoughts on the food truck scene: "On the events where were together, we talk to everybody. I like to be friends with everybody," Pastrana says, "because at the end of the day I wanna try everybody's food and have a full belly!"
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Participating in the food courts are working out better than going it alone, too. "There are so many choices, and people bring the whole family and they can eat whatever they want to eat," Killmer says, "and I think we all benefit from that."
Future plans: Don't expect Miso Hungry to become a brick-and-mortar restaurant, at least in the next decade, they say. "I think the thoughts are we are going to have this, and maybe a second truck later on," Pastrana says. "We want to approach the culinary schools and have students have internships on the truck, and learn and work. Later on,maybe we'll have one of the trucks run by students and we'll kind of take a backseat and do more managing and making sure the quality is good."