Monday, November 22, 2010

Sea Urchin (Uni)

I love to try new and unusual foods and recently Rachael treated us to a seafood dinner that included uni, or sea urchin.

I have a mental thing about sea urchins. I became intimately acquainted with them right after graduating from high school when my family moved to Hawaii. We visited Kona on the Big Island for several days and I was distressed to find no beach. Undeterred, I took out a light plastic air mattress into the ocean, crossing over the rough lava rock to reach water. Unfortunately, the tide started to come in as I was heading for shore and the waves started to push me into the rocks. My air mattress popped and I was slammed by the waves against the rocks. I was cut and scraped, receiving gashes in my leg that had to be stitched up by a doctor. Worse, however, were the innumerable sea urchin spines which punctured my skin and then broke off. The doctor said I would have to let them dissolve - it was not possible to remove them. They were miserable and I have hated sea urchins ever since.

I tried uni at Tokyo Sushi in Redlands several years ago and was repelled by the taste and the texture. Below, a tray of uni.
It was all I could do to keep it down. I really disliked the soft, kind of creamy texture, and the taste was off just enough to be off-putting. Add that to my aversion for sea urchin and I decided I had had enough sea urchin for my lifetime.

However, Rachael showed up with some uni as part of a meal she was cooking for us and so I decided to give it another shot. She put the uni on rice and then put a dab of Japanese mayo on it.
It was much better than the uni I'd had several years prior. It actually was not too bad. The rice gave it a better texture and the rice and mayo moderated the taste.

In looking at an article on uni I find that what I was eating was actually sea urchin gonads which produce the sea urchin roe (eggs). I've had rocky mountain oysters and turkey testicles, and now sea urchin gonads? Wow.

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