ELICITING THE ISLAND'S ISOTERIC
It is true to say that one eats with their eyes; consuming a dish purposefully and decisively, interest piqued by the vibrant and dulcet colours, eloquently spaced and placed elements – the way a single prawn curls in on itself, almost as though it were attempting to retain the saporific punch or even the notion through which a slice of bread complements the drizzling olive oil, rich green tones across the plate reaching and seeping into soft baked dough. Of Art & Culinary finds these correlations between visual aesthetic and tangible consumption through the poignant and performative elements that ISSO implements in its cuisine. Embracing Sri Lanka’s identity, ISSO specializes in prawns, a dish inherent to the nation’s tropical island personality.
CEO and co-founder of ISSO Restaurants Pvt Ltd, Apinash Sivagumaaran launched his restaurant in 2016 and has since expanded into the Maldives as well. In conversing with Apinash, we explored the breadth of cuisine while understanding the interpreted elements and their significance. ISSO’s menu is composed through those of Black Tiger Prawns as well as Sea Caught Prawns; each specie with its own unique identity and function. The cuisine is curated to adapt the Sri Lankan palette, from the traditions of the eastern province to the contemporary twists of the western province. “We try to understand the Sri Lankan palette and introduce items on our menu. Although we serve Prawn dishes from around the world, we bring a Sri Lankan twist in their recipes, through the style of cooking or use of an ingredient,” Apinash conferred.
“The prawn is one of the main constituents of the Sri Lankan cuisine that is largely enjoyed; from the famous ISSO wade to variations of prawn curries originated from different parts of the country to the popular butter fried prawns - we have a lot of prawn dishes we love in Sri Lanka. At ISSO we want to serve these dishes using the best available ingredients, presented in a way you can also eat with your eyes,” explained Apinash. One devours visually and aesthetically, prompting the viewer to continue forth and consume from smell to taste, aroma to flavour. In plating a dish, the chef is conscious of its complementing components, its taste in parallel dimensions to its pictorial aspects. In essence, these ingredients are meticulously chosen, creatively cooked and delicately plated. “Culinary is the art of preparing food, cooking and presenting it. I had that privilege to work with passionate chefs during my career and learned from them, the attention to detail that goes into serving a meal,” he said.
The black tiger prawns and sea caught prawns are essential ingredients to the ISSO cuisine and carry their own particular personality. “We use only the best ingredients available in the market. The prawns used at ISSO are only black tiger prawns or sea caught prawns,” said Apinash. The black tiger prawns are discerned through its prominent black and yellow stripes and slowly metamorphose into a vibrant red shell and hold potent white meat when cooked. Each nuance of the ingredients is fastidiously and efficiently manipulated and employed to elicit its most pungent taste. “Our supplier follows many processes to ensure the prawns are delivered to us in the freshest form. Including individually blast freezing each prawn at -18c to preserve its freshness and ensure no pathogens are produced at that temperature. We work closely with suppliers to get specific products from brands we have incorporated into our recipes. We maintain a high position for quality in our supplier chain.”
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