I'm feeling a little blur today, as they say in Malaysia. Last night was a happy whirl: eyewatering spice at Sambal Shiok's residency at Salvation in Noodles' Finsbury Park branch and luminescent installations at the Lumiere festival of light in central London. Like all good experiences, both are fleeting and finish tonight!
So let's start with the food, shall we? Longtime readers of this blog will know that as the child of a Petaling Jaya expat, I'm constantly craving authentic Malaysian food in London. Sambal Shiok absolutely delivers on that front - I've had her epic rendang sliders at Street Feast before. But my heart longs for laksa slurped out of bowls, huddled around a table with good friends and family. And that's exactly what I got on my visit. Sambal Shiok's Hainan chicken potsticker dumplings and ayam goreng (fried chicken) poppers are worth fighting over with your chopsticks.
Laksa ayam - a steaming bowl of chicken curry and vermicelli for Matt with very sensible shots of coconut milk (not pictured) to offset the spice.
Laksa udang, a prawn version of the above for Kana.
Miho, E and I were all won over by the sound of nasi lemak with rendang daging. Nasi lemak is often fêted as Malaysia's national dish, and for good reason - fragrant pandan-scented coconut rice, a smattering of ikan bilis (dried anchovies), peanuts, egg, cucumber and meat (slow-cooked beef here!) make for a wonderfully filling meal dancing with flavours and textures. I was taken aback by the beef rendang standing in for ayam goreng, but it worked so well and I was later told off by my Malaysian mother for not knowing that rendang is a common substitute for chicken. Apparently I'm a bit basic. #storyofmylife
Sambal Shiok's food packs a punch in the spice department - the eponymous sambal will literally leave you in tears, whether you're weeping for joy or because you're a wimp (like me). I would say that this isn't for the faint-hearted, but really, the faint-hearted should man up and work on that spice tolerance. This dish wasn't lacking in heat, but I did wish for more ikan bilis - in Malaysia I like to have a little mound of the salty fish to counter the spice. A few more anchovies and this dish will be a knockout - the beef rendang was tender and subtly flavoured, almost reminiscent of Moroccan tagine.
If you're hoping to catch the last night of the Sambal Shiok residency, make sure to get down to SiN early to avoid the queues - service starts at 5pm and it's worth putting your name down to make sure you get a table. Miserable that you're missing out? Fear not - Mandy Yin of Sambal Shiok tells us she's on the hunt for a more permanent home, so watch this space!
Next on the Saturday night agenda: braving the crowds on Regent's Street to peer up at the Lumiere installations strung overhead, trying not to get snow in my eyes. Studio Echelman's 1.8 London was my favourite exhibit - a diaphanous, flame-like sail billowing over the Oxford Circus roundabout.
A short stroll down the street brought us into contact with Keyframes, a slightly brash nod to gaming culture, and these wispy Luminéoles - metamorphosing rapidly from flying fish to Portuguese man o' war, elephant head and...other things.
All good Saturday evenings finish with something sweet (gelato, waffles and crêpes at Scoop). Oh, and something alcoholic to fuel the outrage when you discover that two of your friends haven't seen Jurassic Park. Or Independence Day. Or Back To The Future. And that's what Sundays are for!
As I've said, the Sambal Shiok pop up and Lumiere finish tonight and both are definitely worth venturing into the cold for. So if you're a Londoner at a loose end tonight, you know what to do!