Malaysian magic at Holloway Road’s red-hot restaurant
Sambal Shiok, run by lawyer-turned-restaurateur Mandy Yin, is receiving rave reviews for cuisine that’s weirdly hard to find in the capital
02 August, 2018 — By Tom Moggach
On trend and worth booking with friends – Sambal Shiok
MANDY Yin, a lawyer-turned-restaurateur, must be pinching herself. It’s been a dream start for her new restaurant Sambal Shiok, with a wodge of rave reviews and queues spilling out along Holloway Road.
She specialises in laksa, the fragrant noodle soup from Malaysia, and honed her skills in a series of street stalls and pop-ups around London. This is her first permanent site: 171 Holloway Road, a few doors up from the also-excellent Zia Lucia pizzeria.
Malaysian cuisine is weirdly hard to find in the capital – in stark contrast to Thai or Vietnamese.
Laksa is also one of those classic cult dishes whose recipe is hard to pin down. Endless subtle variations are dished up in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and parts of Thailand.
One of the best I’ve tried is served at Roti King, a tiny basement restaurant a few steps from Euston station. The essence is a rich stock flavoured with multiple aromatic ingredients such as lemongrass, ginger, cumin, turmeric and coriander.
Sambal Shiok has mastered two broths: one with a traditional prawn base; the other vegan and smartly on-trend.
Straight up, both are hot and fiery. Or opt for medium heat, with a dash of cooling coconut milk.
The laksas at Sambal Shiok are served with egg and/or rice noodles, plus your choice of tofu puffs, king prawns, poached chicken or charred aubergine and sautéed potatoes.
I visited with a friend and we were lucky to nab a table. (You can reserve for groups of four or more; any less and take your chances).
The room is bright, modern and bold, with blocks of deep blue on the walls, an open-plan kitchen and soundtrack of classic hip hop and R&B.
The drinks list is on point, with craft beers from Pressure Drop brewery in Tottenham and wines majoring in riesling, a grape well suited to spicy Asian food.
We ordered all four of the snacky starters. A dish of pickles was on the small side; puffy crackers spiced with fenugreek were chewy and possibly fried a while ago.
Gado gado salad, on the other hand, was terrific – a jumble of textures from slivers of crisp taro, cucumber, shredded carrots and tiny cubes of fried potato, all slathered in a spicy peanut sauce.
Fried chicken was my dish of the night, with moist thigh meat encased in a dry, spiced, crunchy batter.
The laksas are feisty beasts, brimming with beansprouts, shredded herbs, noodles and your choice of protein.
We ordered medium hot versions. The coconut milk adds a creamy richness that’s almost daunting, especially in hot weather.
The soups cost £9-13.50, so expect to pay around £20 per head for two courses without drinks and service.
Sambal Shiok is red hot right now – so gather at least three friends and book a table.
A couple I know were offered a two-hour wait, so spent their date night at a Vietnamese around the corner.
Sambal Shiok Laksa Bar
171 Holloway Road, N7
020 7619 9888