Sea Urchin


The sea urchin is a spiny spherical creature found in shallow seawater in and around reefs around the world. The edible "roe" (actually the organs producing the eggs, not the eggs themselves) ranges from pale yellow to bright orange color.

In Japan uni is a popular sushi item and quite a delicacy. It is sometimes accompanied by a raw quail egg. During the season in Italy sea urchin is harvested from tidal pools, cut open with a special scissorlike tool, and eaten immediately. It is also sometimes blended into risotto and used to top spaghetti.

Extremely fresh roe is mildly sweet and briny with a soft creamy texture. As time passes, the flavor deteriorates rapidly and can become bitter. Even more than most sushi, freshness has a huge effect on the flavor of urchin.


Other names: Uni
Translations: Jūras ezis, Jūrų ežiai, Marea Urchin, Morski jež, Con hải đởm, Zeeëgel, समुद्री साही, Морской еж, قنفذ البحر, 성게, Mořský ježek, Bulu babi, Hayop ng siotsin, 海胆, Eriçó de mar, Morský ježko, Riccio di mare, קפוד ים, Sjöborre, Морски јеж, ウニ, Seeigel, Erizo de mar, Морський їжак, Merisiili, Морски таралеж

Physical Description

They are about the size of a fist, covered in porcupine-like spikes. Once opened, their "roe" is yellow or orange and surrounded by dark gray cartilage and fluids. Each sea urchin contains several "roe," which are marble-sized.

Colors: Orange, Yellow

Tasting Notes

Flavors: Salty, Sweet, a bit like the ocean
Mouthfeel: Soft, Slippery, Full
Food complements: Rice, Pane pugliese, Lemon, Wasabi
Wine complements: Prosecco, Sauvignon blanc
Beverage complements: Pilsner
Substitutes: Caviar, Oysters

Selecting and Buying

Choosing: Look for roe sacs that are brightly colored with a slightly rough surface, almost like a tongue. They are extremely delicate and should be whole, not broken or crushed. Ideally, purchase them fresh from a seafood market.
Buying: Sea urchin is sold in fish markets and many asian markets. Much of the world's commercial supply comes from the Pacific Northwest of the United States, where sea urchins grow very large.
Procuring: There are a variety of edible urchins in many of the World's oceans. Check with local fishing authorities to see if they are edible and legal to harvest in your area.

Sea urchins tend to grow in cracks and spaces between rock. Pull them gently from where they live being careful to get stuck with the quills.

Preparation and Use

To prepare, turn upside down and use a knife or scissors to cut into the shell in slightly from the outer edge, continue cutting in a circle all the way around. Scoop out the center and all of the innards being careful not to damage the orange eggs sacs stuck to the inside of the shell.

Once cleaned, you can either gently scoop out the sacs for use in a variety of recipes, or squirt in a bit of lemon juice and then either eat plain or with bread.

Cleaning: Clean the insides thoroughly with water. When you cut them open, they are full of fluids and cartilage that you'll want to throw out before eating the "roe."

Conserving and Storing

Live urchins with survive for several days if iced or refrigerated. Cleaned roe sacs can be stored refrigerated for several days, though they are best to eat right after removal.



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