cover image Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream

Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream

Alvin Cailan, with Alexandra Cuerdo. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35 (352p) ISBN 978-1-328-93173-3

In this exciting debut cookbook, chef and restaurateur Cailan shares recipes inspired by his Filipino immigrant parents. Here he reflects on his culinary growth from childhood as “a knucklehead kid who wanted to be Gordon Gekko,” through a period living “the extravagant, hip-hop baller lifestyle,” to his becoming the chef/owner of the Usual in Brooklyn and several other restaurants across the country. Chapters are devoted to places and people and foods associated with each: Cailan’s great-grandmother Lola smelled of baby powder and whipped up dishes like cheeseburger lumpia (the Philippine version of spring rolls). A chapter recalls his teenage stint as a dishwasher and prep cook at a convent, cooking the likes of chicken sprinkled with Knorr tamarind soup mix. Recipes run the gamut from simple (tilapia fish sticks; ratatouille adobo) to a seven-day roast pig project that includes instructions for laying a brick fire pit. All showcase in-your-face attitude: a bacon-and-egg banh mi, for instance, is titled “The Bone Mi.” Though there are nods to healthier eating (lentils with peanut butter offer “the Filipino flavors without the bypass surgery,” that is, without the traditional ox tail), these are generally high-fat and high-flavor options, including ramen with fermented shrimp paste and ground pork. The many short q&a’s interspersed are often funny and always candid, such as one that chronicles Cailan’s disintegrating relationship with his one-time best friend and cocreator of his first restaurant, Eggslut, in L.A. This wild ride of a collection has bluster, but also heart and personality to spare. (Aug.)