Weird or Good: Sea Urchin

Jul 18, 2011 4:32 pm

Think you know what you’re eating? Guess again.

fresh sea urchin
Photo: Ming1967 on Flickr
Whether you call 'em tongues, corals or straight up 'nads, savor that sea urchin - it's a rare treat.
 

Everyone has an equally gross opinion on what sea urchin looks like. A slimy orange tongue, baby droppings, rotting banana…we could go on. What on Earth is it? Sea urchin, or uni as it’s known in Japanese restaurants where you’re most likely to encounter it, is the sex organ harvested from the frequently poisonous spiky hermaphroditic sea creature that hurts like the dickens when stepped on. Rather than refer to it as such, the gonad filets are more delicately referred to as “corals.”   

So do we have anything nice to say about this sea devil’s unattractive innards? Yes. It’s absolutely delicious, like a heavenly kiss from the ocean. While it may look slippery, sea urchin’s texture is actually smooth and creamy. It melts like butter on pasta and soba noodles, which is why it has to stay chilled to keep its shape for sushi.

Italian chefs stir it into risotto for its umami kick and the French scramble it into eggs for its subtle, sweet shellfish flavor. It blends seamlessly into Hollandaise, which we think makes some of the best eggs benedict we’ve ever tasted, and when it’s perched atop a perfect piece of nigiri sushi with just a hint of soy sauce, well… some things just can’t be improved. Try an uni shooter if you’re feeling adventurous, it’s similar to an oyster shooter but with sake, ponzu and a raw quail egg instead of vodka and hot sauce.

Next time you see urchin on the sushi menu, ask two things: Is it fresh (hopefully you’ll get the truth) and can I order one for my buddy?

Have you eaten anything weirder or better than sea urchin? We doubt it, but if you have, please share it with us in the comments below.

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