Sea urchin is a gourmet product, a traditional Japanese dish included in the menus of the best Japanese restaurants around the world. In Japanese, sea urchin is called “uni”. It has a color ranging from yellow-golden to amber-orange and has a specific taste. Uni is found in many varieties of sushi and sashimi. The roe of sea urchins has long been known in Italy, Croatia, Malta, and in some other countries off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Not many people have had a chance to try a sea urchin, so let’s find out what it tastes like.
What does sea urchin (uni) taste like? The sea urchin has meaty notes and tastes like oysters. The sea urchin has a delicate, sweetish, and creamy flavor, depending on the water where it lived. Sea urchins, like oysters, are eaten raw, seasoned with a little lemon juice or some kind of spicy sauce to weaken the sea taste.
Does sea urchin taste fishy? Sometimes sea urchins can taste fishy. To some, sea urchin’s subtle taste reminds of oysters with meaty notes, while some people say it has a sweetish scallop with a taste of ripe papaya. Indeed, fresh sea urchin is extraordinarily delicate in taste, and its milky-cool aromatic structure resembles the pulp of ripe tropical papaya.
People give different descriptions of the taste of the sea urchin. Here are a few descriptions my friends gave me:
- Similar to a scallop with creamy notes, sweetish;
- Resembles oysters with a meat flavor;
- Tender, like papaya;
- Tasteless, or tasted like baking soda,
- Consistency like pollock, but after adding lemon juice it became much more interesting.
What part of sea urchin do you eat? If you have been served a whole sea urchin, you need to eat it with a dessert spoon straight from the shell. The edible parts of sea urchins are their roe and a reddish-orange flesh adjacent to the shell.
Experts recommend enjoying the taste of the sea urchin as it is, without adding sauce or emphasizing the taste with the raw yolk. But some people like to set off the pure aquatic notes of echinoderm with bright fruit flavors such as citrus, mango, chili. Steamed sea urchins are most often recommended for light in texture, bright in taste and aroma, with high acidity wines with pronounced minerality, as well as sake.
When buying sea urchins, pay attention to the color, odor, and appearance of the sea urchin. The needles should not stick out in different directions, but on the contrary, they should adhere to the body. The color inside should be orange and not have an unpleasant odor. It is best to store sea urchins in canned form. It is better not to store fresh product, but to eat it right away.
Ideally, you need to eat sea urchin with a dessert spoon directly from its shell, opened by a skilled chef. Ice white wine, preferably with a fruity tint, is ideal for accompaniment to this delicacy.
The optimal amount of fresh sea urchin for eating at a time is 70-120 grams, depending on your appetite. Some Japanese restaurants serve sashimi-style sea urchin, sometimes flavored with savory sauces. The only difference with the usual way of enjoying a delicacy is that you do not have to extract the treat from the shell yourself.
Sea urchins must not be cooked using heat treatment, as it will destroy the delicate taste and elastic texture. Therefore, echinoderms are most often served raw as an aperitif before serving hot meals. In European countries, sea urchin is also used as a delicate sauce for fresh pasta or omelet soufflé, in Asian countries — as an exquisite topping for rolls.
Unlike fish caviar, sea urchin roe can be frozen for storage. The demand for fresh sea urchins and frozen roe in Japan exceeds the demand for salted caviar. Salted sea urchin roe can be used in various seafood-based salads as a useful flavoring agent. Such a salad with a specific taste is good as an appetizer for strong alcohol and as an aperitif before hot dishes.
Since sea urchin roe has a rather noticeable taste of iodine (somewhat stronger than that of seaweed), it is better to add it to pasta with seafood when serving. Heat treatment of caviar is not recommended. Therefore, salted roe is added to the prepared paste. Some foodies like to add sea urchin caviar as a condiment to ready-made scrambled eggs and omelets.
Are Sea Urchins Safe to Eat?
Is sea urchin dangerous to eat? Sea urchins are not dangerous or poisonous. On the contrary, sea urchins help to remove toxins, radionuclides, and other harmful substances from the body. It improves the functioning of the central nervous system, improves mood, and successfully fights against stress and depression.
Sea urchins’ health (and hence the production of roe and its mineral composition) depends on the conditions of the water they live in. Sea urchins prefer cold water, so the sea urchin catching season is from December to April. In restaurants, they are kept in aquariums with cool seawater at a temperature of 5 degrees. After opening, echinoderms deteriorate very quickly. Therefore, they are most often served alive or kept alive until the roe is retrieved.
These sea inhabitants have a unique immune system. They are true long-livers, striving for immortality. Sea urchins can live up to 200 years without aging or losing their ability to reproduce. Studies in the United States have found that sea urchin DNA is 70% identical to human DNA. Therefore, we conclude that the use of this product contributes to the rejuvenation of the body, the growth of physical, mental, and reproductive abilities.
Useful and medicinal properties are because echinoderms daily eat algae, which nourish meat and caviar with an exceptional composition of minerals, vitamins, and other substances. The question immediately arises about the quality of the aquatic environment in which the sea urchin lives. But the analysis of the tissues of the sea urchin suggests that it accumulates the least negative elements of pollution of the aquatic environment in comparison with other sea representatives.
Sea urchin contains almost all vitamins, a huge amount of micro- and macroelements such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, phosphorus, sodium, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as amino acids: glycine, phenylalanine, and glutamic acid. 100 grams of sea urchin contains only 86 calories. And the glycemic index of the product has only 15 units, which means that you can eat sea urchins, even if you have diabetes.