Sea Urchin for Meals

Are you aware of the Japanese have been enjoying a porcupine-like sea creature for centuries?  A plate of toasted sea urchin is as common a dish as a plate of pan-seared scallops at the fishing villages dotting along the long coast of Japan. In Japan and Hong Kong, uni(oo-nee) is highly valued for its sweet and delicate taste. It is often served with sushi or sashimi.

A halved sea urchin showing its edible gonads.

Although it may appear daunting in attempting to get to the edible part of a sea urchin, a pair of tongs and a pair of man grooming scissors or kitchen shears are all it takes to accomplished the task. The taste of the uni is unique and well worth the effort. Uni(oo-nee), the bright orange–yellow part of the sea urchin is the creature’s gonads, although it is commonly addressed as the roe(eggs).

So why should we care about an expensive and hard-to-eat creature as an alternate food source? Simply because diversity and local resources are important. While sea urchins are expensive in some parts of the world, they are more likely treated as thrash in other regions, especially where they are available in abundance.

That is exactly the case for the sea urchin population along the coast of America. Sea urchins are treated as a nuisance for fishermen, divers, and destroyers of sea kelp beds. Until lately, sea urchins do not bring much of a positive impact on American fishermen as very few people would eat them. However, in recent years, sea urchins are being harvested and shipped to Asia cities where they are considered as delicacies. The harvesting kept the population of sea urchins in checked so that sea kelps are not over-glazed. It also gives a breather to other over-harvested seafood as more food diversification takes place.

Sea urchin is high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, libido-enhancing zinc, heart-friendly unsaturated fat and other beneficial nutrients, so if you haven’t included sea urchin into your diet, give it a try.

The flesh of a sea urchin can be consumed raw like an oyster with certain health risk associated, so best to proceed fully informed. They can be easily barbecued, fried, toasted with spines and all. The alternate way is to remove the flesh ahead and incorporate them into dishes such as seafood chowder, pasta, salad. They are tasty as well on a sandwich. Try them out.

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