Neighborhood Kitchens

A visit to SoWa Open Market and Mei Mei Street Kitchen

By Margarita Martinez

I loved hanging out with the Li siblings during our Mei Mei Street Kitchen episode. Mei, Andy, and Irene are so much fun to be around. I've never seen a bunch of siblings having such a great time while working together. Every piece of signage on the truck has a clever twist (check out the ever-changing tip jar situation, where your tip will determine who will win a duel, i.e. Dumbledore vs. Voldemort). They have spontaneous truck-wide dance moves (mainly limited to the upper body as it would be pretty dangerous to work your running man in a 4-foot kitchen space with five other co-workers). However, the zany and laugh-happy attitude of the Lis should not be mistaken for a lacking work ethic.
Mei, Andy and Irene Li from Mei Mei Street Kitchen

The Li siblings work hard and take their business seriously. It takes many hours of prepping, planning, coordinating, social networking, and serving to make a food truck and new restaurant successful.



Besides Irene's brief time as a line cook, none of the siblings had worked in the back of the house of a restaurant or received any formal training in the culinary arts. So, how did they decide to own and operate their own food truck in such a competitive market? They love food, they love farms, they love their family and heritage. Those passions coupled with Mei's business background, Andy's restaurant management experience, and Irene's time living on a farm were all they needed to create the juggernaut that is Mei Mei Street Kitchen.

Food trucks have become very popular in cities worldwide. It used to be that one could only commonly get hot dogs or shwarma from a food truck. Now, one can get gourmet French food, barbecued ribs, and, with Mei Mei Street Kitchen, locally-sourced Chinese American inspired cuisine. Mei Mei Street Kitchen's delicious ever-changing menu features fun names and descriptions that keep the wait for food entertaining.

Kale salad, Mei Mei Street Kitchen For instance, one can choose from the Magical Kale Salad, which we learn to make on the show, or the Banh Mei made with local ham and housemade pate on a scallion pancake. During the week, Twitter is the best way to find out where food trucks will be during meal times. On Sundays, over 25 food trucks can be found congregating at the SoWa Open Market in Boston. The SoWa Open Market is a destination for street food from all over the world. Biryani-to-go, Korean bi bim bap, Mexican tortas, and Mei Mei Street Kitchen's Double Awesome sandwich (housemade pesto, Vermont cheddar, and two fried eggs on a scallion pancake) are just a few of the many options to choose from.

At the SoWa Open Market, one is guaranteed to find original, handmade items between the food truck market, the farmers' market, and the arts market. In addition to produce, the farmers' market has independent purveyors of salsas, hot sauces, flower arrangements, sandwiches, and dog treats. The arts market has all sorts of arts and crafts, ranging from photography and paintings to quirky handmade tote bags and one-of-a-kind doll clothes. There are lots of open markets around the world, but the SoWa Open Market is truly a unique place with purveyors offering an array of original and locally made products and food items. It was the perfect place for Mei, Andy, and Irene to test their Mei Mei Street Kitchen on people looking to try new things and our lives are more Double Awesome for it.


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About Neighborhood Kitchens

Building on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.

Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44

About the Author
Margarita Martinez Margarita Martinez
Margarita Martinez grew up in the Bronx, NY and Ossining, NY with a Puerto Rican father and a Franco-American mother. She now calls New England home. Margarita has always had an insatiable appetite for travel and food. She made her first empanada as a teenager visiting Argentina, satisfied her sweet tooth with poffertjes and stroopwafels while studying in Holland, engorged herself on Thai street food for a month in Bangkok, and continues to search for authentic international cuisines in the Northeast. Margarita loves to discover new ingredients, flavors, and cooking approaches that she can bring to her own home kitchen.

On the Go

In each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!

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Find a Neigbhorhood Kitchen
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Margarita's Neighborhood Visits

»Boston: Bristol Lounge
»Boston's South End: Orinoco, Teranga and Oishii
»Boston's Back Bay: Casa Romero
»Boston's North End: Taranta
»Roxbury: Merengue
»Boston's Beacon Hill: Scampo
»All Around Boston: Mei Mei Street Kitchens
»Cambridge: Muqueca, Oleana, and Sandrine's
Somerville: Dosa Temple
»Lawrence: Cafe Azteca
»Lowell: Simply Khmer

»Fresh from the Fish Market
»Jamaica Plain: Tres Gatos
»Dorchester: Pho Le and Cafe Polonia
»Medford: Bistro 5
»Portland, ME: Emilitsa
»Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames
»Pawtucket, RI: Rasoi


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