Chef of the Week: Mandy Yin, Chef Patron at Sambal Shiok Laska Bar in London
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I am chef patron of Sambal Shiok Laksa Bar. We opened in June 2018 so 3 years. Originally I started Sambal Shiok as a street food business in 2013 just after I stopped being a lawyer.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I had the privilege of growing up in Malaysia so have vivid food memories from the hawker stalls and night markets there. My mother is a great cook and I learnt a lot from watching her cook as a child.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
There is nothing better than customers enjoying your food, and repeatedly coming back with new people to introduce them to it.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Chillies, shrimp paste and coconut milk.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
A good food processor / hand blender for all the spice pastes usually required in Malaysian cooking.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Regional Asian cooking is very popular, as well as innovative takes on British cuisine. Freshly made pasta continues to draw the crowds.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Thinking that you can do everything. You can’t! Learning how to delegate is an important skill, and how to give your team the autonomy to crack on with their jobs.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Growing up in Malaysia we never really had seasons so I enjoy eating all year round!
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My chicken satay burger for allowing me to break into street food and my signature curry laksa as it continues to draw the crowds – my laksa has a pretty punchy chilli kick as I enjoy my chilli and prefer to start off strong, and then tone it down with coconut milk if necessary.
How do you come up with new dishes?
Mainly I use my taste memories from growing up in Malaysia as well as inspirations from eating out in London and on my travels. I also try hard to come up with gluten free and vegan options of dishes which traditionally call for shrimp paste or plain flour. My mission in life is to introduce as many people to Malaysian food as possible – this means making my food as accessible to all!
Who was your greatest influence?
My mother for showing me how to cook.
Tell us three chefs you admire
David Chang for being a strong voice for Asian cuisine around the globe. Anthony Bourdain for encouraging people to be open and non-judgmental about food from other cultures. Nigella Lawson for making dishes from all sorts of different cuisines completely accessible.
What is your favourite cookbook?
I often turn to Ed Smith’s On the Side or his most recent Crave for ideas on what to cook at home.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Ixta Belfrage formerly of Ottolenghi and Joké Bakare chef patron of Chishuru.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Tofu Vegan, another cracker from the people behind Xian Impressions and Xian Biang Biang.