Chili Chompers: Chef Philip Mimbimi

Ismaya Assistant Corporate Chef Philip Mimbimi loves spicy condiments like a little kid loves toys.

It is a love that grew as he was exposed to great cuisines and food markets in Indonesia. Philip’s first exposure to the spicy condiment began when he was working in Thailand. In the first month of tasting it, Philip’s stomach experienced violent wave; he described the experience as “Philip against stomach.” But the disturbance did not stop him. “As a chef, you need to try and be open minded,” he reasoned.

After Thailand, he went to work in Jamaica and on to Las Vegas. He went back to Asia to work in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and he tried the sambal of nasi lemak. As he predicted, he could finally handle the taste and the experience made a profound memory for him.

“My favorite sambal is sambal hijau, I can eat that with spaghetti or any other food. I also can pair it just with rice, a little bit of fried shallots; that’s okay for me. I can eat sambal terasi or sambal matah but only in small amounts because it is quite challenging for me. I usually eat sambal at dinner time because if I eat that in the morning, I wouldn’t be comfortable for the rest of the day.”

Philip gave us two reasons why he loved sambal hijau. First, green is his favorite color. The second reason was because sambal hijau has a versatile flavor.

“What I learned from eating a lot of nasi padang, green chili itself is kinda medium spicy compared to bird’s eye chili. I think it is kinda closer to American jalapeno because in Michigan where I grew up, I was exposed a lot to Mexican food. Sambal is pretty fun.”

At Ismaya’s Kitchenette Restaurant & Crêperie, there are two basic sambal served. One is sambal merah and is made from red chili, shrimp paste, garlic, shallots, salt, seasoning and cooking oil. The red one is usually served with nasi goreng and brisket. There is an interesting story behind why he uses the red sambal with brisket.

“In Ismaya, we have a tasting culture and it is an important part of what we do. It is like research and development before we release a new menu. The brisket is something that we tried many times, probably 12 times. Twelve different schedules of food tasting internally before we decided this is it.

It actually happened by accident; we originally wanted to make it as a Korean style dish like a hotpot or Korean bowl with gojuchang but we felt it wasn’t really authentic as we don’t have access to Korean cuisine. And we came up with the idea of doing it in Indonesian style and after one or two testings, we switched it.”

The other sambal is the green sambal which is made from almost the same ingredients but includes bird’s eye chili, candlenut, green tomato and kaffir leaves. The green one is usually served with oxtail, chicken, and fried rice. Make no mistake, Philip does not adjust these sambal for anyone. Prepare your choice of palate cleanser when trying these dishes. They are so hot, but so tasty; as much as the heat burns, you’ll want seconds.


Plaza Indonesia 2nd Floor, Jalan M.H. Thamrin No. 28-30, Jakarta
T: +62 21 29923580
Twitter: @k1chenette
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Written by Tatu Hutami Photographs by Dennie Ramon June 2, 2017.