When I posted the sea urchin blog post the other day, my cravings kicked in. I had to have some again.
Sea Urchin actually has more variety than you might expect. Everyone just thinks of those black spike balls that roll around in the ocean. In some parts of the world, however, sea urchin can be red, blue, or even purple.
If you want sea urchin sushi at a Japanese restaurant, like Ariake (where I went), check off “Uni” on the a la carte menu (usually paper, but I’ve seen laminated menus with erasable markers, as well). Uni is usually priced by market price, just so you know. Ariake offers two pieces when you order nigiri (fish on top of rice), and the Uni order was $10.50 that day.
In the United States, you’ll find two main types of Uni (thanks to redditor h2g2Ben for the information):
- Maine Sea Urchin – smaller lobes, fresh sea water taste. Slightly darker orange color.
- Santa Barbara Sea Urchin – large lobes, brighter color, more substantial texture.
From the looks of mine, it was from Maine:
But in Japan, you’ll find a much wider variety (and thanks to Redditor ukatama for THIS info):
- Purple sea urchin: Smallish, pale, delicate sweetness.
- Northern sea urchin: Looks similar to the Purple, somewhat larger; extremely popular. Found in Hokkaido and the surrounding areas.
- Elegant sea urchin:Short spine, dark orange, robust flavor.
- Short spined sea urchin: Varietal of the Elegant found in Hokkaido; somewhat larger in size; said to be the best tasting of the lot. Dark orange in color.
- Red sea urchin: Found mostly in western Japan; light color and appreciated for its subtle flavor.
Let me tell you something up front: you’re eating the gonad of the sea urchin. If that doesn’t gross you out, good. Prepare for a little taste of slight brine and sea water that melts on your tongue. I’ve found that it can be a little bitter sometimes, but not always. See what you think! You’ll be able to say you ate it!