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!
Wikipedia 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.
I 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.