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What Chef Eats: Wiem Kahyang Isha

What Chef Eats: Wiem Kahyang Isha

Danti Tarigan
16 June 2023


Check out where Mr. Fox's Executive Chef, Wiem Isha, savors hidden culinary treasures and discover street food gems.


The talented hands behind Mr. Fox, Chef Wiem Kahyang Isha, knows exactly how to impress foodies with modern Asian flavors. Beyond his kitchen station, you often find him going to tables, chatting with guests, engaging, and listening to their feedback. When he’s not so busy cooking up his culinary magic, Chef often roams around the city, savoring street food gems and Jakarta’s hidden culinary treasures. 

Hi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your day-to-day activities?

Hi, I’m Wiem Kahyang Isha, but I usually go by Wiem. Each day, I oversee the culinary operations at Mr. Fox and collaborate with various departments, including the back-end office. I work closely with my amazing team–which is filled with a bunch of talented and passionate individuals–reinventing traditional dishes with contemporary techniques inspired by travel pieces around Asia. 

To get inspiration, I often go around and explore any kind of street food as well as wet and fish markets. It’s an exciting way to immerse myself in the vibrant food culture and discover fresh ingredients that inspire new creations in my kitchen.

I am also particularly drawn to Japanese cuisine, which has become one of the inspirations for Mr. Fox’s dish concept: Modern Asian. Moreover, I often delve into books about different cuisines and techniques. 

To you, what would make a perfect meal? 

I always put three elements in my dishes to achieve bold flavors: crunchy, sour, and savory. Crunchiness will add texture and excitement, whether it’s from crispy vegetables, toasted nuts, or perfectly seared proteins. Sourness, on the other hand, brings tang and freshness. It can come from a squeeze of citrus, vinegar or by incorporating pickled ingredients. Lastly, savoriness will provide depth and richness; ranging from umami-packed ingredients like soy sauce, miso, or Parmesan cheese, to slow-cooked meats and hearty spices. Combined, these elements create an exceptional taste that delights the palate.

Is there any food you can eat every day without getting bored? 

Nasi Padang Sari Indah never fails to tantalize my taste buds with its bold and rich flavors.

What are your favorite foods? 

My favorite food includes different kinds of porridge–from the flavourful Bubur Manado (Manado porridge), Bali, and Chinese porridge–to the tantalizing Singaporean Laksa. My taste buds crave this diverse range of Asian flavors!

What is your favorite midnight snack? 

Indulging in Martabak manis at midnight, a treat that leaves no room for regrets.

What is your favorite Jakarta Hawker food? 

My favorite Jakarta Hawker food is undoubtedly Kwetiau Sapi Mangga Besar and Ayam Goreng Gohyong Malaya in Menteng area!

Where are your top three dining places that are always on your favorite list? And which food do you recommend getting at those places?

When it comes to my favorite dining places, the top three that always make the cut are Ikan Bakar Cianjur for its flavorful grilled fish, Martabak Manis Alay Tanjung Duren, and either Manado Food: Ayam Woku (spicy stewed chicken from Manado) or Padang Food: Gulai Kepala Ikan (Fish Head Curry) and Ubi Tumbuk (Pounded Cassava Leaves from West Sumatra).

What are your favorite local dishes, and where do you go to eat them?

My go-to comfort food is Soto Ayam, and Soto Ayam Pak Pardi Surabaya is my favorite! Savory with a hint of sweetness, topped with crunch from flavorful ebi (dried small prawn). Whenever I’m in Surabaya, I always go there to savor this delicious dish.

What is your most recent dining destination that left a good impression? 

I recently enjoyed Soto Ayam Ambengan, Sate Padang Ajo Ramon, and Bakso Medan Akiaw. I also visited a renowned Indonesian restaurant for its exceptional Nasi Kecombrang. The experience left me impressed with Indonesia’s diverse and flavourful street food culture.

Do you have any go-to venues for hanging out with friends or maybe for special occasions with family?

Besides hanging out with friends, discovering delightful culinary gems in Jakarta has always been an exhilarating experience for me. I love to enjoy Nasi Pecel Ramidjan in the Cikajang area with my family and friends. Their homemade peanut sauce, infused with distinct brown sugar flavors, leaves an indelible mark on my palate. Equally captivating is Nasi Gudeg Pejompongan located in the Bendungan Hilir, which tastes very similar to the one found in Yogyakarta. These two destinations have become my go-to havens with my friends and family.

In the past few years, we have seen a lot of unique food trends; which food trend do you like the most and why? 

I love seeing local foods and the exploration of Asian flavors become much more popular nowadays. It’s fascinating to witness how local cuisines and ingredients are gaining recognition on a global scale.

Did you develop new recipes or discover a new type of food you have enjoyed in the recent year?

I’ve been experimenting with exciting Asian-fusion flavors, incorporating techniques like steaming with aromatic herbs and utilizing bamboo, combined with lotus leaf, for its smoky flavors. I also use ingredients such as Jantung Pisang (Banana Blossom) to enhance a fish dish’s taste (then combine it with a flavourful Nam Jim dressing) and wrap and steam chicken in lotus leaf. 

If you were given a chance to make one certain Indonesian dish loved/acknowledged by the Western market, what dish would you choose and why?

I would choose Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice), which allows me to be creative in combining ingredients while still presenting authenticity. I specifically created Bone Marrow Fried Rice for Mr. Fox because I wanted to infuse a unique and indulgent twist into the traditional Nasi Goreng. By incorporating roast beef marrow, sweet-spiced wagyu, and pickled eggs with Japanese soy sauce, I aimed to enhance the dish’s richness and depth of flavors.

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