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If you haven’t heard of Eggslut, do a quick Google search and I’m sure you would like to have it here in the Philippines.
Eggslut started as a food truck in Los Angeles. They started serving different types of egg sandwiches, the “Slut” being the most unique as it features a pampered egg on smooth mashed potatoes, topped with gray salt and chives, and served in a bun or a baguette. Think Korean egg sandwiches, but slightly different.
And after food writer Ruth Reichl wrote about how slutty was a mouth-watering dish, their fame began to skyrocket. Soon they were one of the hottest food trucks in LA, and would eventually cater to celebrities and open a brick-and-mortar restaurant. It would also pave the way for their team to achieve other forms of success outside of the restaurant itself.
For its founder, Alvin Cailan, it marked the start of an affluent career in the restaurant world that included founding other famous restaurants as well as working with some of the country’s top restaurateurs and chefs.
Prior to Eggslut, Alvin Cailan had many attempts to gain fame in the restaurant world. He’s had a few successful but short-lived attempts in the past, but it’s this simple yet intricate sandwich that really helped land him the door to culinary fame. It’s also a product of his mixed identity as not quite Filipino and not quite American either.
In his book “Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream,” he and his co-author Alexandra Cuervo review various recipes that have played a significant role in Cailan’s journey as a chef.
And through food stories, they tell us what it was like to grow up surrounded and consumed by a passion for food while struggling against the conventional Filipino-American dream of success and white picket fences.
Here are some excerpts from that book.
Rice is life, but sometimes it’s sauces and Sabaw who make the food
When we imagine Filipino food, there is always a bowl of rice somewhere in that picture. And while it is true that rice occupies an important place in Filipino cuisine, it took Cailan and Cuervo to explain the role of sauces and Sabaw in our food for me to realize that they could be as important as rice, if not more.
What is Kare-kare without the velvety peanut-based sabaw that coats the tripe and vegetables? East sinigang really sinigang without broth? Forget that dinuguais if you ain’t gonna lather it up dugo.
Sabaw isn’t uniquely Filipino, but the way Cailan and Cuervo wrote about them in such detail makes you appreciate the effort it takes to create something so tasty. It also explains how our culture is based on catering to others’ preferences and how allowing our customers to customize the flavors of their bowls is an important part of the dining experience.
Inspiration comes from those around you
I grew up in a family full of good cooks. Even my titos and titas are amazing home cooks, and my cousins take cooking seriously too. So when Cailan explained that her family shared a passion for cooking great food, I really connected with that.
Cailan wrote about preparing pancit with the cousins and his lola. He wrote about the many dishes his father used to cook for them. He also wrote about how his own aunt had a catering business and working for her really opened his eyes to all sorts of possibilities.
But it wasn’t just his family that inspired him. Some of his friends also dabbled in cooking, and one of his first jobs was also at a nursing home for nuns where he worked with an undocumented Filipino who taught him how to use ketchup for spaghetti. Filipinos.
All those rich relationships he has linked to food. As you try some of the recipes in the book, know that you also share an essential memory with Cailan.
Dreams only come true when you do something about them
When you read “Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream,” you’ll get a taste of Cailan’s muddled past. At one point he was a mobster, then later an entrepreneur. He was a baller, but also a businessman. He made a lot of money, and he threw it away for a dream.
He was obsessed with food, so even though he made a decent change by renovating office spaces, he spent all his free time learning about food. Eventually he wanted to become more than a home cook and worked hard to become a chef.
And he would need more wrong turns and a few chin shots before he started creating success for him and his team.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
Fusion cuisine can sometimes be an acquired taste. It’s hard to break away from what you’re used to, and some would even say that experimentation destroys the Filipina-ness of a dish. But Cailan shows us through her book that unfettered experimentation and creativity should be welcome.
After all, there really isn’t a rule that tells you how to enjoy food (unless it’s health-related).
Cailan recreates several Filipino dishes and adds a Western twist to them. He uses rice vinegar and real tomatoes for the Filipino spaghetti. I was tempted to shout “Blasphemy!” the first time I read about it, but now I’m filled with curiosity. He also made lumpia cheeseburger, skirt steak for bistek, munggo with shiitake broth and much more.
After all, Cailan isn’t just Filipino. He’s American too.
Life is an accumulation of past experiences
There wasn’t a single moment in Cailan’s life that led him to be the famous creator of Eggslut. Instead, it was an accumulation of experiences from his childhood that helped him become who he is today.
From exposure to unique Filipino food at a young age, his fascination with dilihis aunt Cita turning him into a cook, and even his drunken feasts with his friends pandesal and whatever filler they can find – all of these became the foundations for the success that would come later in life. – Rappler.com