Billed as ‘The Malaysian cookbook’ rather than simply a Malaysian cookbook, Sambal Shiok chronicles the rise of one of London’s best-known South East Asian restaurants along with providing around 90 recipes.
Founded in 2013 by former corporate lawyer Mandy Yin, Sambal Shiok started out as a street food stall but now operates a bricks and mortar restaurant in Islington alongside a successful catering business.
The book starts with a series of mini essays that do a great job of contextualising Malaysian cooking and how it has been influenced by countries near and far. The country’s population is 60% Malay, 25% Chinese, 7% Southern Indian and 8% indigenous, making it a fascinating melting pot of different culinary influences.
Lin - who was born in Kuala Lumpur and arrived in the UK when she was 11 - provides her tried-and-tested takes on all the Malaysian classics are present and correct - including definitive recipes for laksa, satay, beef rendang and, of course, the fiery chilli paste from which her restaurant takes its name - but there are lots of tempting-looking lesser-known dishes too.
Other stand-out recipes include Malaysian fried chicken; prawn fritters; spiral curry puffs; and the flaky roti canai bread that Malaysians use to mop up currys. While many dishes are traditional, Yin also includes a number of recipes for more original fusion dishes, including her famed satay burgers and a Malaysian take on the Sichuanese classic mapo tofu.
Ingredients list are surprisingly approachable for a South East Asian cookbook. While some recipes call for ingredients that may not be available in a supermarket, the vast majority of the ingredients can be sourced from a decent Asian supermarket and Yin also provides some ideas for substitutions. That said, the book has not been dumbed down, with the recipes and methods the same as those used at Sambal Shiok Laksa Bar in nearly all cases.