Sea Urchins are a loved delicacy in many areas around the world. Sea urchin, or uni as it’s commonly known by its Japanese name, can be eaten in a variety of presentations, including as part of a sushi meal and as a flavoursome addition to pasta dishes. There is no better way to enjoy the buttery flavour and slimy texture of uni, however, than straight out of the shell.
Should you ever find yourself near the Mediterranean Sea, here are some great tips for diving for sea urchins, and how to enjoy your freshly caught meal.
1. With uni, there is no uniform
There are over 700 known species of sea urchin worldwide. The two most common types in the Mediterranean are Paracentrotus lividus and Arbacia lixula. Yeah, that’s gibberish to us too!
2. It’s not as hard as you think
While sea urchins are able to move slowly on hard surfaces, due to their rows of tiny tube feet, they attach themselves to rocks. When diving, stick to rocky coastal areas, as some can be found in less than 15 feet of water. Always bring a sharp knife to extract them from their resting place, but a pair of gloves and a gentle pull off the rock can usually get the job done. The only other equipment you’ll need is a mask, snorkel and flippers.
3. Look for animals with a plus-one
A little secret to identifying sea urchins in the Mediterranean: The edible ones will have a small piece of seaweed, a shell, or a rock attached to the top of them. They will also never be pitch black in colour: look for slight shades of red, green or purple.
4. Sea Urchins aren’t dangerous
Despite typical misconceptions, sea urchins are not dangerous. Even though their spines can inflict a painful wound when they puncture skin, this injury occurs only when the urchins are stepped on accidentally, or handled incorrectly or carelessly.
5. The greatest uni invention ever
After you detach a sea urchin from a rock, you will want a place to hold it as you dive for more. Plastic bags create a problem, as you’ll have to constantly hold on to them as you dive, and take extra care to not brush up against the protruding spines of the captured critters. The best tip we can give you is take a large plastic bucket and tie a thick piece of rope to it. Attach the other end of rope to a buoy, and then place a couple of weights in the bucket. This will allow the bucket to remain underwater, preserving the freshness of the captured creatures.
6. Be prepared
Trying to open your freshly caught loot with knives, scissors, or any other contraption will only result in disappointment and possible injury. Fork out a few dollars and buy a sea urchin–opening device to be ultimately prepared.
7. Find the gonads
The urchin’s gonads are its only edible part. There should be a fivefold symmetry of gonads inside – gently shake the opened sea urchin in the sea water (this will release inedible parts like the guts), take a spoon, and scoop out the remaining orangey insides. Their gonads are delicious!
8. Hesitant? Add liquor
Uni can be paired with a variety of spirits, most notably wine or sake in Japanese restaurants. Try it with the Greek aperitif ouzo — the liquorice-like taste perfectly complements the delicate flavour of the urchin. Feeling extra Greek? Pour a small amount of ouzo directly into the half-shell of uni and scoop it up simultaneously with the gonads.
9. You can also enjoy sea urchins without eating them
Don’t like the taste of uni? No worries. You wouldn’t know it at first glance, but a sea urchin’s spines cover up a beautiful shell. After the animal dies and decomposes, it leaves behind a delicate casing in eye-striking shades of red, green, blue or purple. These shells lay peacefully and untouched on the sea’s bottom.
Sea Urchin Harvest sells premium Sea Urchin Uni & Sea Urchin Roe from Australia’s iconic east coast. All of our Uni is caught fresh and delivered fresh to you! If you have any questions about ordering Sea Urchin Uni for your commercial business please get in contact via the Contact Us Page or alternatively call us on 0414 441 136.