Dale Talde's Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes From the Philippines to Brooklyn begins with a memory from the chef's childhood and possibly the best first line of a cookbook: "There's a pig's head in the oven again."
Talde explains that his aunt and mom kept their Filipino cooking traditions as alive as possible after moving to Chicago, incorporating American ingredients like Spam and canned sardines into traditional dishes from home. Talde may call his recipes "inauthentic" in the title of his new book, but his stories ring true to most of us children of immigrants who grew up thinking cheeseburgers were special-occasion foods and beef tongue and tripe were everyday family meals.
Talde's memories, combined with his Culinary Institute of America training, form the chef's culinary style. The chef, who will open his namesake Talde at the Thompson Miami Beach hotel in November, is in town for a book chat. Last evening, he hosted an intimate pop-up at the Thompson's 1930s House. It was a chance to sample the chef's food without taking a trip to one of his restaurants in Brooklyn or Jersey City.
The chef showed a calm energy, making sure every single dish was plated correctly before it made its way to guests. The four-course menu showcased dishes from his restaurants — many of which are also featured in his cookbook if you want to take a shot at preparing them at home.
Don't let the sight of this beautiful perilla leaf starter fool you. This herb, part of the mint family, is popular in Korea for cooking and in China as an immunity booster. Talde tops the leaf with bacon-tamarind caramel, toasted shrimp, coconut, and peanuts. The elegant, small starter packs quite a flavor punch. The chef packed each bite with plenty of heat, showing Miami what's to come in the way of flavors.
A dim sum trio is served with accompanying sauces. Sweet pea samosa pairs with kaffir lime yogurt and golden raisin chutney, and pretzel pork and chive dumplings are dipped in a spicy tahini mustard. Talde shows his delicate side with a tuna tartare spring roll with crispy shallots, ponzu, and chili.
The secret to the chef's spicy Korean Fried Chicken is the brine. Talde soaks the chicken in his kimchi yogurt for a minimum of 24 hours (up to five days for maximum flavor), before frying the bird twice. The golden pieces rest on a bed of more kimchi yogurt. The result is chicken that's super crispy on the outside, succulent on the inside, and packed with spices. The chicken is spicy, but the creaminess of the yogurt balances the heat, as do the grapes served on the side. Recipes for both the KFC and the kimchi yogurt (which, by the way, has no kimchi in it), are also found in the book. Pressed for time and don't have days to brine a chicken? Talde gives a "cheat" option: make his sauce from scratch and serve over some fried chicken from Popeye's. He promises he won't tell anyone your secret.
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A creamy, soothing avocado milkshake ends the evening. By the way, the recipe for this dessert (or morning pick-me-up) is found in Talde's book. It's an easy way to use your Miami avocado windfall.
The meal was paired with Brooklyn Brewery's Brooklyn Sorachi Ace beer, a saison farmhouse ale that stood up to the meal's bold flavors.
If you want to hear the inside scoop on his Miami Beach restaurant or get some cooking tips from the chef, Dale Talde is hosting a chat and book signing tonight, September 30, at Books & Books Coral Gables. Beginning at 8 p.m., fans can enjoy a conversation with the chef, focusing on stories from Talde's cookbook, his influences, what to expect at his upcoming restaurant, and some Top Chef gossip. The event is free and open to the public.