Cooking the Unthinkable: Sea Urchin

Cooking the Unthinkable is a series that examines some of the more eccentric ingredients. Whether you are a fan of the bizarre or are preparing for the eminent collapse of Western society this series will help you better stomach weird food.

If you believe that cooking has to include some application of heat then you may not agree that sea urchin is something you “cook” with as it is almost always eaten raw.  Well, loosen up, dude.  Gosh!

Sea UrchinWikipedia describes a sea urchin as, “small, spiny, globular animals which, with their close kin, such as sand dollars, constitute the class Echinoidea of the echinoderm phylum. They inhabit all oceans. Their shell, or “test”, is round and spiny, typically from 3 to 10 centimetres (1.2 to 3.9 in) across. Common colors include black and dull shades of green, olive, brown, purple, and red. They move slowly, feeding mostly on algae. Sea otters, wolf eels, triggerfish, and other predators feed on them. Humans harvest them and serve their roe as a delicacy.”

Uni or sea urchin roe (technically their gonads) is growing in popularity in American sushi bars.  It’s a Red Badge of Courage ingredient among those who seek to put a little adventure into their lives.  Count me into that group.  Recently I was on the West Coast and decided I would take the Uni plunge.

Uni from Kabuki in HollywoodI saddled up to the sushi bar at Kabuki on Vine St. in Hollywood armed with a gift card courtesy of Susan Irby (aka the Bikini Chef).  I boldly ordered two Hamachi Toro (Yellow Fin tuna belly) rolls and two Uni rolls along with a sake cocktail.  A bit sparse I know but it was after all breakfast.  The Hamachi Toro was amazing, simply amazing.

The Uni was an experience in texture.  The taste was mildly seafoodie while not overpowering with the distinct after taste of gray matter.  Anyone who has tried animal brains knows what I am talking about.  The bitterness is brief and can easily be covered up with a proper use of wasabi.  I liked it.  But the texture was very strange.  It was incredibly smooth almost like a soft custard pudding or pudding only fish flavored.  That’s it!  Uni is fish pudding.

Would I eat it again?  Sure but I prefer Toro or salmon skin rolls.  Salmon skin rolls will change your life.

Uni from Kabuki in Hollywood

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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