You've likely seen golden mounds of uni delicately placed on top of rice served at many sushi restaurants or even enjoyed luxuriously rich uni cream udon, but what exactly is this delightful ocean delicacy?
Uni is sea urchin roe, if we're keeping it simple. It is one of the few remaining delicacies that are harvested from the wild. Urchins come from the same family as starfish and sea cucumbers. They have incredibly long lives, living 50 to100 years and reproduce prolifically, releasing several million eggs at a time.
The only edible part of the sea urchin is called the roe, but it is actually the urchin's gonads. The gonads swell and shrink in size depending on the season, and during winter time, prior to spawning, the gonads store food as energy and are at their fullest. At spawning, in the early spring, the urchin's gonads are converted to reproductive cells and the roe turns a brown and grey color and takes on a watery texture.
The urchin’s diet greatly influences the color and quality of the final product; a steady supply of kelp is best. The color can range from a bright yellow to a deep, vibrant orange. Urchins are actually quite healthy for you as well. They're rich in protein and dietary fiber, minerals, Vitamins C and A, and omega-3 fatty acids.
High-quality uni should not taste at all fishy, instead, the flavor should be light, pleasantly sweet, and creamy. It's pretty incredible something so delicate and buttery could come from such intimidating spiked sea creatures. If you haven't already tried sea urchin, now is the time!
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