Sea Urchins are the ocean’s edible pincushions that are good to eat. It is buttery on the inside but spiny on the outside. The texture of Sea Urchin is somewhere between Jell-O and egg yolk. For those that have never tried them, their taste is unique. They have an umami-salty sweetness because they are full of salt, amino acids, and sugar. They also tend to taste like the seaweed they feed on and the ocean from which they come. Some say it is gooey, sweet, runny, slightly salty, and sweet. To know the real taste, you need to try it yourself.
What is a Sea Urchin?
The Sea Urchin is echinoderms, related to Star Dollars and Starfish, and is an invertebrate. They have a spiny spherical shell that encloses five segments of gonads that are a bright yellow-orange. The gonads, which are the reproductive organs from either gender, are the edible part of the Sea Urchin. They live in the ocean and feed on kelp and algae. Sea Urchins are harvested wild by divers. Their Japanese name is uni, and are often called that instead of Sea Urchin.
Although there are over 950 species of Sea Urchins, there are only a few species that are harvested commercially. They are often identified by colors, which can get confusing as there are many shades of purple, red, and green. Another confusing way of identifying them is where they are from since several types are found in one place. They are most often found in shallow water and some spots, they seem to cover the seafloor.
Nutritional Information for a Sea Urchin
One Sea Urchin that weighs 3.5 ounces contains 1.83 grams of omega-3 fatty acids that help to support brain and heart health. They also are a good source of zinc and protein, which help wounds heal and support the immune system.
Preparing a Sea Urchin to Eat
The availability of Sea Urchins depends on the location and species. You can find the green Sea Urchin from Maine in the winter when it peaks and the Pacific purple one found on the West Coast is available year-round. Here is how to fix your Sea Urchins.
- For a whole Sea Urchin, turn it upside down over a bowl of water. Using sharp kitchen scissors cut an opening all the way around the mouth. Be careful that you do not poke the uni inside.
- Gently pull off the shell that was attached to the mouth to reveal the gonads. To remove the liquid inside, invert it over the water bowl.
- After all the liquid is out, flip it back over and use tweezers to remove any organs that are visible around the gonads. Gently pry the gonads away from the shell using a spoon.
- Dip the Sea Urchin in a small bowl of ice water to help keep the gonads intact. Scoop the gonads out with the spoon and onto a paper towel. They are now ready to eat.
How to Eat a Sea Urchin
Sea Urchin can be eaten in many ways.
- You can use raw Sea Urchin on top of decadent pasta or on top of the rice to make uni sushi.
- The uni is an emulsifier so you can use it to thicken custards, soups, and sauces.
- You can add it to scrambled eggs or an omelet
- Sprinkle it with lemon juice and serve it raw on crackers
- You can add it to yakitori marinade or barbeque sauce as the fat and protein in uni will help to brown the meat.
- You can serve it on a crostini with a little white wine or lemon juice
- Make sure that the Sea Urchin is cleaned out of what is not good to eat, crack an egg inside and steam it until the egg is poached, using some sea salt as your seasoning.
No matter how you eat or serve Sea Urchin, you need to remember that it has a delicate flavor so make sure that whatever you serve with it or how you fix will not detract from that delicate taste.
Health Benefits of Eating a Sea Urchin
- They are considered a strong aphrodisiac so if you suffer from frigidity or low libido, eating a Sea Urchin will help to boost your sexual drive. In Japan, they are a popular aphrodisiac.
- They are rich in protein
- They supply your body with good dietary fiber
- A good source of vitamin C and A
Not all Sea Urchins are created equal because it looks and tastes different from different parts of the world. Of all the species of Sea Urchins, there are only 18 edible varieties. The Sea Urchin has a spiky outside so make sure that before you pick it up that you are wearing gloves. You need to pick it up gently. If you do get stung it will be painful but it is not dangerous. Just make sure that you keep the wound clean to prevent an infection.
As mentioned, you can do many things with uni but the best way to enjoy it is raw like you would enjoy a raw oyster. To help enhance the natural flavor, you can add some lemon juice or butter. One important thing to remember is that a Sea Urchin should never taste fishy because if it does, it has gone bad and you should not eat it. To get the maximum flavor from the Sea Urchin, you should enjoy it as soon as it leaves the water. One thing that might turn someone off from eating a fresh Sea Urchin straight from the ocean is that while you are enjoying them, they are still moving. After it has been opened, they will move for about 30 minutes.
So far, in the year of 2020, California has harvested 20 million pounds of Sea Urchins that were sold to Japan markets for consumption. With these numbers, it shows that you can eat a Sea Urchin. It is slowly gaining popularity in the United States. In Japan, they account for approximately 80 % of consumption globally and there it is considered a delicacy.
Also, be sure to read our other article, Can You Eat a Starfish?