AMBOY: Irreverent chef’s book of modern Filipino cuisine

Seth Rogen says of Cailan: ‘He’s a wonderful person whose love of food shines through in every bite.’

Alvin Cailan’s “AMBOY: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream” is the debut collection of modern Filipino cuisine from one of America’s most dynamic and innovative chefs and restaurateurs, with interviews from writer and documentarian, Alexandra Cuerdo.

Known to diners in Los Angeles and beyond for his unforgettable approach to pushing the limits of traditional Filipino cuisine, Calian has been recognized by everyone from The New York Times to Food and Wine as one of the most inventive authorities on Filipino cooking. His dishes—and the food philosophy featured at his restaurants, Eggslut, Amboy, and Unit 120—are offered for the first time in a cookbook.

He first grabbed attention with his food truck concept, EGGSLUT, a cult favorite that specialized in affordable egg sandwiches in Los Angeles and gave late-night passersby whiplash with their outstanding 3 a.m. egg-maneuvers like the wagyu-egg-chimichurri hat trick and in-your-face messaging. While it took him a long time to find his path, Cailan began his career with a pedigree comparable to many fine dining chefs: a classical French culinary education at Oregon Culinary Institute, followed by stints at some of the West Coast’s finest restaurants: Castagna, Olympic Provisions, and French Laundry.

His story of success, however, is an unlikely one. The son of immigrant parents raised in East L.A., he emerged feeling like he wasn’t Filipino enough to an American, thus “amboy,” the term for a Filipino raised in America.

AMBOY is part autobiography, part cookbook, and the 100 recipes showcases Cailan’s creativity in the kitchen. He seamlessly combines his classical training with unmistakable and exciting Filipino flavor profiles, including foods he grew up eating, favorites from his restaurants, and inspirations from a wide swathe of cuisine infused with his irreverent personality and featuring lively stories. As he writes, “Amboy describes my cuisine, my lifestyle. It’s how I cook. It’s how I talk.” The vast majority of the dishes are accessible and completely replicable at home.

The 13 chapters are organized by the people and places associated with the food. Each tells a story, often funny and always candid, about Cailan’s life and interspersed throughout are short Q&As.

Bone Marrow Fried Rice
Grilled Chicken with Annatto

Highlights Includes:

▪ MOM AND DAD “Daddy Kitchen:” The dishes he watched his dad make and was raised on: Lugaw, a porridgey rice similar to Chinese congee described as “a bowl of happiness;” Champorado, the dessert-for-breakfast dish; Sinigang (Mom’s favorite), the tamarind-soured, vegetable-packed soup; Arroz Caldo, a soul-warming chicken, ginger, and rice stew; Adobo, braised chicken in vinegar and soy sauce, as well as a no fail instructions for Jasmine rice.

▪ LOLA: Alvin’s great-grandmother and one of his first kitchen heroes. The dishes in this section are the epitome of Lola’s cooking—decidedly unfancy, from the heart, and for the soul. Ginataang Bilo-Bilo (Rice Balls in Coconut Milk); Pan de Sal (Sweet Rolls) “the ultimate sandwich bread”; Pancit Bihon (Noodles with Vegetables); Cheeseburger Lumpia, a recipe that taught him to think outside the box.

▪ AUNTIE CITA: Babysitter, wok master, and cooking mentor. Cailan learned how to food prep from her and she cemented his love and pride for Filipino food. Here you’ll find classics: Lechon Kawali, (Crispy, Tender, Deep-Fried Pork Belly); Sinigang and Adobo, amplified, but her true specialty, desserts all made by hand; Bibingka (Coconut-Rice Cake), an explosion of flavor and texture, and Latik (Caramelized Coconut Milk), Filipino desert syrup.

▪ THE RISE OF EGGSLUT: The egg sandwich phenomenon that captured LA’s food scene. The dishes here are OG Eggslut and showcases its in-your-face attitude: a bacon-and-egg banh mi, titled The Bone Mi; the classic brunch dish and very, very French renamed, The Madame; and The Bacon-Leek Tart, a really fluffy, eggy custard with caramelized leeks and bacons.

▪ UNIT 120: The culinary incubator and ground zero for the renaissance of Filipino food in L.A., this chapter features recipes like Amboy Chicken Inasal (Grilled chicken with Annatto) a favorite street food; Grilled Pompano, full of great oily, fishy flavors; Kare-Kare Lentils (Peanut Butter Curry Lentils); Filipino flavors without the bypass surgery; Carb Fat Sauce, described as “nirvana” for warm fluffy rice and juicy chicken.

▪ THE MAJOR LEAGUES: Cailan recalls the high and lows of success, and the dishes that kept diners lining up for hours, and what set him apart from everyone: The Slut, a coddled egg on top of potato puree, and Bulalo Ramen, his love letter to Japanese ramen culture and, until now, only staff and loved ones got to enjoy.

▪ AMBOY: The dishes once served at his Filipino restaurant in Nolita neighborhood in New York City, like the Slow-Cooked Crispy Pata (Fried Pork Knuckle), a complex dish that requires many days; Fish Sarsiado Shakshuka-Style, extremely Filipino and Amboy cuisine at its finest; Bone Marrow Fried Rice, it’s fatty, rich, and instantly badass; and Kinilaw (Vinegar-Cured Fish), a cousin of ceviche. Filled with 125 full-color photos, master recipes for stocks and French sauces, illustrations and instructions for laying a brick firepit for a pig roast and assembling a coconut grater, and sidebars highlighting a particular ingredient or tips on how to roast bell peppers or mince garlic.

AMBOY is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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