Eating Sea Urchin
At first glance, this dark and spikey sea creature might look more frightening than delicious, but sea urchin is a seafood delicacy enjoyed all around the world. Even right here on the west coast of the United States, we have access to some of the world's best sea urchin uni. Uni is the name for the five bright orange, edible, and delicious organs inside the spikey sea urchin shell. Uni are the gonads of the sea urchin, the reproductive organ responsible for forming the sea urchin roe, otherwise known as sea urchin eggs. Sea urchin is a little different than other fish in that you don't necessarily want to eat the roe, but you want to eat the uni before they fill up with eggs.
You can enjoy eating sea urchin in many different ways. Most often, people worldwide want raw sea urchin sushi, but uni sushi isn't the only way to eat uni. Many chefs mix uni into soups, sauces, and other dishes for its unique and salty flavor and creamy texture.
Let's dive into this unique seafood and discover all things uni sea urchin.
Speaking of diving...
Diving for Sea Urchin
Sea urchins are one of the few creatures in the ocean that divers still harvest by hand. Free divers dive to depths are far as 50 feet deep to harvest sea urchins off rocks on the ocean floor.
The sea urchin you eat in the US most likely comes from the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of California, although sea urchins are found throughout the world's ocean. We find that the sea urchin from the west coast has a much more pleasant flavor. It's also larger! When eating west coast sea urchins, you still taste the ocean, but in a delightful umami sense. The mild briny flavor is like that of oysters or other raw shellfish.
East coast sea urchins are smaller and have a much stronger flavor. Currently, Atlantic sea urchins are protected from harvesting after decades of overfishing.
Sea urchins are a culinary experience with something to offer each of your senses, from its bright color to its creamy texture and mild ocean flavor.
A story of Sustainability:
Sea urchin is one of the most sustainably fished sea creatures you can eat. The hand-harvesting technique ensures the seabed and other habitats remain undisturbed, and there is virtually no accidental bycatch when divers cut sea urchins from their rocky underwater homes.
In Jeju Island, off the coast of South Korea, women train to become sea urchin divers. These women, called Haenyeo, dive and hold their breath for long periods to harvest sea urchins and other seafood delicacies. These women can support their families from the money they earn diving for sea urchins. Haenyeo women have passed on the diving tradition for centuries. Mothers, daughters, and grandmothers dive to treacherous depths to improve the economy of their villages.
For such an unsuspecting-looking sea creature, they sure do provide food and livelihood for many people.
An invasive species?
In parts of the world, sea urchins are an invasive species. So, what does that mean? Invasive species are animals that are not natural to the habitat they have moved to. They can do more harm than good to the world's oceans.
So, what is it that the sea urchins are doing?
Sea urchins eat kelp and other seaweed as their primary food source. Kelp is an underwater plant that captures and stores CO2. Mature sea urchins have very few predators because of their hard spiky shells. Only humans and the occasional sea otter venture to the rocky ocean floor to feast on sea urchins. Too many sea urchins mean less and less kelp on the ocean floor.
Luckily for us, kelp recovers quickly, and sea urchins aren't an endangered species. A healthy balance of sea urchin harvesting can protect the ocean's kelp, which is better for the ocean environment!
So, you can feel good about buying and eating sea urchins for sale! You're doing the oceans a favor!
What Does Sea Urchin Taste Like?
If you've never tried sushi uni before, but you love oysters and other raw seafood, you're in for a real surprise when you taste the natural sweetness and saltiness of uni food.
Uni sushi has a mild flavor, soft custard-like texture, and natural sweetness like oysters or scallops. Sushi sea urchin is raw urchin uni. You can enjoy this delicacy by itself, in sushi, or over pasta for a nice punch of ocean flavor.
Many divers enjoy uni right out of the ocean after cleaning off all the sand. Otherwise, divers harvest the uni and store them in saltwater to preserve the fresh taste and texture.
The unique texture of sea urchin uni changes depending on the season. The best time to harvest sushi sea urchin is before the uni has filled with eggs or roe. Once the urchins have matured and developed their eggs, the uni becomes hardened, making the texture less pleasant. The best time to enjoy uni is from March to November.
So, now that you're excited to try sushi uni, how do you prepare it?
How to Eat Sea Urchin Uni
Eating sea urchin is as easy or complex as you want to make it. Sea urchin is stored in saltwater to preserve its freshness, flavor, and texture.
You can eat uni right out of the box. Eating uni by itself gives you a mouthful of salty ocean custard.
Creamy, buttery, a little bit briny are some ways that people describe sea urchin uni. An ocean cream is another.
One of the best ways to enjoy uni is raw, but if you're hesitant to jump right in with uni, here are a few ways you can try it first.
- Spread on buttered toast
- Over your favorite pasta dish. (Uni is fantastic over squid ink pasta!)
- Served over rice
- Dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and wasabi.
- Served over medium-rare steak (Uni butter!)
- Uni and Wagyu beef sushi
Here are a few of our favorite ways to prepare uni:
"Butter of the sea"
- Fresh uni sea urchin
- 1 cup of sushi rice prepared
- Nori seaweed paper (cut into small rectangles.)
- Soy sauce
Make mini handrolls
- Take your nori paper and place about a tablespoon of sushi rice in the middle.
- Take a small piece of uni and put it on top of the rice
- Wrap the nori around the rice and the uni.
- Dip it in your mixture of soy sauce and wasabi for the perfect bite!
*Add some Ikura salmon roe for an extra pop! *
Uni Ponzu Shot:
- Small glass or shot glass
- Two pieces of fresh uni
- One qual egg yolk
- 1/2 tablespoon of ponzu sauce
- Splash of siracha
- Gently place the above ingredients into your shot glass and enjoy!
This recipe combines the creamy, buttery texture of the uni with the quail egg and spicy siracha for a creamy flavor explosion.
Uni Over Crispy Potatoes:
- Fresh uni sea urchin
- 4 cups of mini tri-color potatoes
- 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Coat the potatoes in the mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper
- Bake the potatoes in a 400-degree oven until they are golden brown.
- Lay a thin layer of mayo on your serving plate.
- Lay down your crispy potatoes while still hot.
- Place a few pieces of sea urchin over the potatoes and enjoy!
Sushi Uni Price:
The price tag for sushi uni tends to be higher than other types of seafood because of the labor-intensive method used to harvest uni. Freediving is still the primary method to harvest sea urchins from the ocean floors. Freediving takes specialized training, lots of time, and effort.
So, the next time you order fresh uni sushi, thank a free diver for bringing this unique food experience to your table.
Ordering Uni Sea Urchin from Global Seafoods:
One of the things we hear a lot from people who love sea urchin sushi is that it's hard to find, and restaurants don't always carry it. Well, worry no more. Fresh uni sea urchin is now available through Global Seafoods online fresh fish market.
We receive our uni on Wednesdays, and we overnight your order for Thursday deliveries. When you place your Global Seafoods order, we will give you a separate order number and shipping number for your uni sea urchin. So, if you order on a Friday, your Uni will ship the following Wednesday. We must stick to a strict shipping timeline to ensure you always get the highest quality and freshest uni at your door.
So, just remember when you place your next Global Seafoods Order, your Uni will always arrive on a Thursday.
For more information about ordering and shipping, check out of shipping information page.
Try Uni Sea Urchin Today!
"Sea Butter," "Ocean Cream," "Ocean Custard" are just a few of the ways our customers describe the experience of eating sea urchin. There are so many creative ways you can incorporate this delicious and sustainable seafood into your recipes. Don't wait to get your hands on some fantastic sushi-grade sea urchin uni. Order some today!