I’ve been longing to visit Sambal Shiok ever since Mandy Yin converted an old betting shop and brought her Malaysian flavours to the Holloway Road. In June 2018 after 5 years of street food markets and pop-ups Sambal Shiok opened a Laksa bar restaurant which soon had out-of-the-door queues every evening. So when they started opening for Saturday brunch we were in there.
Really – spicy Laksa soup for brunch?! This was the first reaction from the friends I invited. But a cold January morning is possibly the best time to feast on fiery-hot, shrimp and coconut broth. At 11.30am we joined the queue outside waiting for the restaurant to open and by 12pm it was full.
There are starters – Malaysian standards including deep-fried chicken, gado gado salad, and fenugreek crackers and Nasi Lemak rice dishes. But we were there for the Laksa. We dived straight into steaming hot bowls of curry soup packed with fat rice noodles, beansprouts, green beans and puffed tofu soaking up all the delicious flavours. The Standard is only £9.30, but I opted for the Special – topped with poached chicken and prawns (£13.80). The Laksa soup is powerful, vibrant and so chilli hot it smacks you round the face. Fortunately you can order medium and staff will kindly offer coconut cream to tone things down a bit if you can’t handle the heat. They also offer a vegan shrimp-free Laksa soup base alternative with aubergine and fried potatoes.
The other Walthamstowfoodie is avoiding coconut, so opted for the Assam Laksa (£12). This is a spicy, sour and fruity soup flavoured with galangal, lemongrass and tamarind, and loaded with rice noodles, mackerel, cucumber and fresh leafy herbs. Another triumphant dish, but only opt for this if you really like a fishy flavoured soup.
We sweated and slurped until we all slumped. There were murmurs of pandan pancakes topped with coconut, but we passed on dessert. We had conquered the Laksa!
Sambal Shiok, 171 Holloway Road, N7 8LX