Experience Ehime at Iko Tei

Friday, 29 July 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Shiran Illanperuma

Jakoten and Chirimen-Jako are perhaps not the most well-known Japanese delicacies in this island’s budding food scene. However, thanks to an entourage of delegates from the Ehime Prefecture of Japan, local diners have a chance to expand their palettes and familiarise themselves with regional Japanese cuisine.

The Government of the Ehime Prefecture of Japan recently joined hands with the Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Agriculture for a project to begin cultivation of Ehime’s famous blood oranges on Sri Lankan soil. In keeping with this movement towards increased cultural and economic exchange Ehime cuisine specialists Hiroshi Miyazaki and Takuya Isshiki have come to Hilton’s Iko Tei to set up a limited time offer showcasing unique Ehime delicacies.

Located on an island on the South West of Japan, the coastal region of Ehime is renowned for its unique cuisine, particularly its seafood. Common to Ehime cuisine is the use of tiny species of fish that are prepared in a multitude of ways. 

One famous preparation, called Jakoten, is made by blending the fish into a paste, shaping it into patties and then deep-frying. A variation of this dish is Jakokatsu, where the fish blend is coated in light Panko breadcrumbs before frying – its appearance is more akin to Tonkatsu which connoisseurs of Japanese food in Sri Lankan are already familiar with.

The Jakoten and Jakokatsu on offer at Iko Tei are well crafted and gently seasoned, enhancing the natural flavours of the fish without overpowering them. The dish itself is rather light despite being deep-fried. The Jakokatsu in particular is a compelling alternative to the usual pork, beef and chicken katsu variants available at most Japanese restaurants. 

The appeal of these blended and deep-fried snacks will likely win over even diners sceptical of Japanese cuisine with squeamish notions of raw fish. The sensation of crunchy breaded exterior giving way to a smooth centre of blended fish is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Another Ehime speciality on offer, albeit one that will feel familiar to many mainstream Japanese dishes, is Tai-meshi – a type of Japanese sticky rice seasoned with dashi and soy sauce and served with rich and succulent slices of sea bream. The flavours of this dish are far more subdued compared to Jakoten and Jakokatsu, with a greater focus on the interplay of textures between the sticky rice and fatty sea bream. Despite its seemingly diminutive size Tai-meshi is a wholesome and satisfying dish. With ingredients subsidised by and imported directly from Ehime the cost of many of these delicacies are comfortably on the low end while maintaining authenticity and impeccable quality. Prices range from Rs. 240 for a plain Jakoten preparation to Rs. 850 for a serving of Goshiki-Soumen (noodles with tempura).

These Ehime delicacies and more will only be available at Iko Tei from 28 to 30 July. However Iko Tei has its own range of Japanese and fusion specialities including the delectable Spicy Tuna Rolls, flavoursome Garlic Rice and the classic fan-favourite: Prawn tempura all of which are executed to the highest standards.

The Daily FT’s review of Iko Tei when it first opened December last year concluded that the restaurant, “Brings together all the best elements needed for an enjoyable meal.” With the introduction of this limited offer it seems the Dutch Hospital based establishment is also committed to offerings its patrons new experiences.

Pix by Upul Abayasekara