In fishmongers across the UK, we are starting to see sea urchin more regularly. Treated as a great delicacy across the Mediterranean and in Japan (where they are referred to as Uni), these spiny underwater creatures hold a certain mystique. When they appeared in our local fishmonger Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales I had to take a couple home to try, as I have always been intrigued to find out how they tasted.
Sea Urchin Anatomy
After some research, I discovered that the edible part of the animal are its gonads – which are more appetisingly referred to as the coral, or roe. I presume this is because of their orangey, slightly grainy appearance.
- To protect my hand from the spines, I held the sea urchin using a tea towel with the mouth of the creature facing upward. On close inspection, I could see the spines gently waving, confirming that the creature was still alive and therefore fresh.
- Using a pair of kitchen scissors I made an incision into the urchin’s shell, and then cut a circle with a diameter of approximately 6cm around the mouth of the urchin, revealing its murky innards.
- Using a small teaspoon, I gently scooped out the pale orange gonads (five per urchin) trying to keep them as whole as possible. Placing then into a small bowl of ice cold salty water.
- When ready to serve I lifted the gonads out of the water, and placed them to briefly drain on some kitchen towel.
So what do they taste like? We ate them raw on their own, and also spread on a slice of bread. For our first tasting experience, we did not want to mask their flavour with other ingredients. In texture they are soft, creamy, and slightly grainy. Their flavour is quite strong, unsurprisingly sea-like, and perhaps similar to oysters but with a more metallic and ozone tone. I would also say that they are a little sweet, and slightly musky. Urchins are certainly an interesting food item and when bought from a fishmonger, relatively inexpensive. Chefs seem to be using them increasingly as an additional favour element to experimental dishes, due to their unique flavour. Personally I glad to have tried them, however I’m not sure sea urchin will become a regular food item at home.
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