People have seen a lot of sea urchins caged in aquariums or undersea parks at popular resorts, but not all realize that sea urchin uni is one thing they have been missing out on.
It’s simply delicious and has been gaining popularity with food enthusiasts from Japan to North America, who recognize the unique texture and flavor of this treat. In fact, some people think there is no better way to describe it than by using its Japanese name “uni,” which means “wonderful.”
However, most don’t know where the ingredient comes from and how difficult it is to find genuine sea urchin in a market. The following will explain these matters in detail.Sea urchin uni is the edible part of a sea urchin. It can be enjoyed raw or even blended with sushi, sashimi or salad dressing to enhance flavors.
Even connoisseurs say Uni’s clean taste and subtle sweetness cannot be matched by any other ingredient. Some say it is like caviar, but others point out that uni has no hint of fishiness, which makes it all the more exquisite.
- Unstable supply
- Deliciousness depends on freshness
However, very few realize how difficult it is to procure genuine sea urchin in Japan because most specimens are caught offshore where fishermen risk their lives chasing after them in harsh conditions. In gist, uni is not as readily available as it is at popular sushi restaurants around the globe.
- Softer than cream cheese
It takes tremendous effort to maintain a pool of sea urchins because they are so fragile. This explains why uni is so very expensive these days. Sea urchin uni can cost up to $60 or even more per piece depending on quality and season. However, no one seems to mind paying that price for something that simply melts in your mouth like soft butter with just a hint of sweetness. It truly feels like eating wonderland!
While uni has always been hard to come by, its popularity has rapidly spread among gourmets worldwide lately. As such, some clever restaurateurs are now selling fake sea urchin.
- Sea urchin uni vs. fake sea urchin
So how do you tell whether you are actually eating genuine sea urchin or something else? Here is a list of the three biggest giveaways that your “uni” is fake:
Genuine sea urchin does not smell, but if yours smells fishy, it means it has gone bad and should be thrown out immediately .
The surface of real sea urchin should be completely opaque, while fake ones have white spots caused by air bubbles inside. Fake uni also tends to melt easily in your mouth.
If you can get uni for ¥1,000 or less per piece, it is almost certainly fake
- Sea urchin processing
If you want to try genuine sea urchin uni yourself, the first thing you need to do is decide where to buy it. One place you can get it from is at Soshinsen.com, an online Japanese foods marketplace. As mentioned earlier, supply of this ingredient fluctuates wildly depending on the season and weather. When the weather is nice, fishermen can easily catch sea urchins because they move slowly, but when it’s stormy, they have a hard time catching them.