Dale Talde’s “Asian-American” cookbook is more profound than meets the eye

The chef’s stories and recipes are funny and relatable

Talde poses with a Chinese takeout box on the cover of his book. Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

By: Sara Wong, Arts & Culture Editor

What does it mean to be “proudly inauthentic?” Dale Talde’s cookbook, Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from the Philippines to Brooklyn, will give you a pretty good idea. Co-authored by JJ Goode, recipes like buttered toast ramen, kung pao chicken wings, and pretzel pork and chive dumplings jump off the page. Talde’s food celebrates mainly East/Southeast Asian and “Western” flavours with the creativity and flair one would expect from a Top Chef alum.

Top Chef was actually the reason I picked up a copy of this book. In the most recent season, Talde appeared as a guest judge throughout the competition, including in a challenge centred around recipe development. His name stuck with me as I was browsing through the cookbook section of my local library.

Despite Talde’s numerous accolades, his recipes are extremely approachable. He encourages readers to take shortcuts depending on their comfort level in the kitchen. Being a novice cook, I appreciated his suggestion to buy from Popeyes to complete his fried chicken and waffle recipe. Furthermore, the instructions are all straightforward. I was the most relaxed I’d ever been while preparing a meal.  

As I continued flipping through the pages of Asian-American, I found myself constantly wandering towards the fridge. This book made me want to spend more time in the kitchen, replicating more of Talde’s experimental, umami-packed dishes so I could share new food memories with my parents.

Between the recipes, Talde details his experiences being born and raised in Chicago with his Filipinx family. Although I couldn’t directly relate, his words about transitioning between spaces resonated with me. 

I’m a third generation Chinese-Canadian and have always been proud of my identity. However, the divisiveness of North American society often meant people saw me as only one or the other. When I went out for dim sum or shopped at T&T, I was Chinese; when I wore UGG boots or ordered an iced chai latte at Starbucks, I was Canadian (and also a basic bitch). Talde’s work was a much-needed show of solidarity for me. Here was someone else who embraced East and Southeast Asian-American lifestyles wholeheartedly, raising a middle finger to conventional perceptions of culture. Finally, I felt like my perspective was being recognized and validated.

In the official description of Asian-American, the last line promises the book’s contents will “remind you that you’re home.” When I first read that phrase, I cast it aside as merely marketing material. Turns out, it represents the effect of Talde’s work quite accurately.