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Sea Urchin – A Seafood Delicacy

Do you know what a sea urchin is?

A sea urchin is that spiny little creature you may have seen in a tidepool at the beach or at an aquarium.  They may be a number of different colors including purple, brown, green, olive, even red. What's interesting is that they do not only live in tidepools.

There are actually over 900 species of sea urchins and they can be found in intertidal waters or at depths of up to 5000 meters.

sea urchin uni-don in Samani, Hokkaido by circusline, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by circusline  - sea urchin uni-don in Samani, Hokkaido

One other thing that may be interesting is that sea urchins are also considered a delicacy and they are eaten by people around the world.  Along with the Sea Cucumber, they are both considered one of the strangest food to eat for a westerner.

What Does Sea Urchin Taste Like?

Opinions are mixed on whether sea urchin tastes good or not. I have spoken to a lot of people to get some different perspectives and some people love the way it tastes while others can't stand it. One person that I spoke to said that it tasted like a dirty sponge that was used to clean the bottom of the ocean.

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However, there are many people who consider it a delicious treat. People that like Sea urchin describe it as being rich, creamy, and a bit sweet. It is briny with a slightly nutty flavor and one person I spoke to said that it has a slight sweetness that is similar to raw scallops.

Some people also describe sea urchin roe as the foie gras of the sea, saying that the texture is smooth and custard like. Some people like the taste of sea urchin right away and others describe it as an acquired taste but most people agree that it needs to be fresh because it can go bad quickly.

It is very important that sea urchin is prepared fresh. Therefore, you either have to collect them yourself or develop a relationship with a fisherman or a store that sells live sea urchin.

The spines of the sea urchin should be stiff and rigid, and the opening on the underside should be closed. They can be stored for a short time in a refrigerator underneath a damp towel.  The edible parts of a sea urchin are the gonads and the roe. Both can be eaten raw or cooked. 

In Mediterranean cuisine, the gonads are often eaten raw with a bit of lemon. In Italian cuisine, they may be used in pasta sauces, fish sauces, or used to flavor scrambled eggs, omelettes, or fish soup.

In Japan, the roe is a delicacy which can retail for over $450 per kilogram. The roe is served raw as sashimi or in sushi form(Uni Sushi) and it is often served with soy sauce and wasabi.

Sea Urchin Sushi http://www.flickr.com/photos/47961249@N05/

Also check out sea urchin pizza made at Cotogna, a restaurant in San Francisco created by a Michelin-Star Chef.

Cotogna Sea Urchin Pizza [Photo:David Kover]

Video demonstration on Sea Urchin

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