Sea urchin is both loved and hated in all parts of the globe. Can you eat sea urchins raw? Yes! It’s notable for its creamy, rich, and buttery texture, but it has a strong smell that some find to be bothersome. The unique and rich flavor of the sea urchin makes it an acquired taste. If you’re one of those who find it delectable, you might be interested in learning how to eat sea urchin.
Read on as we’ll tackle the different ways of eating sea urchins, and address the frequently asked questions related to sea urchin food.
Can You Eat Sea Urchins?
Not all parts of a sea urchin are edible. The edible part (uni in Japanese) is referred to by some as the roe or eggs of sea urchin. However, uni is actually sea urchin’s gonads.
The gonads are what produce the roe or milt. The uni can differ in color with some light yellow and others rich gold. Its consistency is rich, which is what some love while others find off-putting.
What do you do with sea urchins? They are very hard to harvest. There are almost a thousand different sea urchin species, but only a few can be eaten.
This ocean delicacy is found across the globe, but it’s consumed primarily in Japan. The best ones are those that are found in Hokkaido as the sea urchins there feed on kelp rich in umami.
Types of Sea Urchin
Before we discuss the many ways to eat sea urchin, you should know that there are two primary kinds of sea urchins, namely:
The Murasaki uni comes from a sea urchin that’s dark purple in color, hence why it’s called ‘Murasaki’ in Japan.
It’s the most commonly available in Japan, but it’s sought-after in several countries. Inside, the sea urchin has a mustard yellow color.
Its aroma and flavor aren’t overly pungent, and it’s delicately mild while having a sweet aftertaste. The Murasaki uni suits sashimi and sushi best.
The Bafun uni is the one that’s found in deeper ocean territories. The result is a more pungent, smaller sea urchin. Compared to Murasaki, the Bafun uni is richer in umami and has a bolder taste.
It’s closer to orange in color rather than yellow and is sometimes referred to as the red sea urchin. The Bafun uni is used in sauces and added to cooked dishes, but it can also be consumed raw in sushi.
These two types of sea urchins are highly sought-after across the globe. They’re classified differently when they’re caught and sold in Japan. Aside from Japan, Chile and the United States are some of the popular spots for catching sea urchins that can be eaten. In the US, the west coast has a more abundant population of edible sea urchins.
How to Eat Sea Urchin
Sea urchin uni is extremely delicate. This means you need to take great care when handling the ingredients.
Its creaminess and natural sweetness make uni best served as it comes – raw. Still, there are those who choose to prepare different dishes with uni.
As mentioned earlier, there are various ways to eat sea urchin. Just remember that uni doesn’t benefit from getting cooked. It will disintegrate and lose its sweetness.
Eating it raw is the best way to eat sea urchin. To enjoy this prized produce, remove the shell by cracking it open.
Make sure it’s lightly washed in saltwater or clean water before opening it to remove sand and grit. Sea urchin is enjoyed by simply dipping in wasabi and soy sauce or alongside sashimi.
If you sprinkle salt in raw sea urchin uni, it will help concentrate the naturally sweet flavor of the delicacy.
It’s left to brine for 30 minutes inside the fridge. The shape will tighten up and the uni’s exterior becomes glossy in the process. It’s then eaten with sushi or rice.
There are several different kinds of sushi. The uni gunkan maki would make great use of delicious uni. It’s also one of the most famous types of sushi.
Gunkan refers to this particular sushi’s shape, which resembles an elongated ship. The sushi rice is lightly seasoned with white vinegar, then formed, topped with uni, and wrapped in seaweed or nori.
Its texture is smooth, creamy, and delicate. The sushi will melt in your mouth, slowly releasing salty and sweet flavors of the ocean.
The maki can be topped with black soy sauce or dipped in it alongside wasabi. Have pickled ginger as the side for cleansing the palate.
A rice dish, donburi is often topped with meat or seafood. Just like sushi, the bed of rice has been lightly seasoned with vinegar.
It’s then topped with sea urchin and seaweed. The knob of wasabi can be placed on top of the dish or added to soy sauce, whichever the consumer or chef prefers.
Whereas sushi makes use of the sea urchin uni sparingly, the donburi dish is topped with this ocean delicacy in full. The donburi can also be topped with simply the uni or accompanied with salmon roe or raw scallops for a more intense flavor bomb.
There’s a traditional dish in Japan that consists of egg custard steamed and with dashi broth, and it’s the chawanmushi.
The dashi is what gives the dish an umami flavor and a delicate custard texture. The uni is added as the topping for the chawanmushi, which perfectly complements the creaminess of this popular dish and the fishy taste of the dashi broth.
Out of the 950 sea urchin species, only 18 are edible. The bright yellow, mustard, or orange lobes of sea urchins are stockpiles of amino acids, sugars, and salts.
This is a trifecta of salty, sweet, and umami, which is why it’s definitely a must-try for every angler!