Watching people taste foods for the first time can be fun and BuzzFeed has made an entire series out of the idea.
Sea urchin, also known as Uni, is loved by chefs and features heavily on tasting menus around the world. The delicacy of the ocean has a strong flavour and a strange texture if you’re not used to eating it.
Where do sea urchins come from?
Urchins are extremely widespread in the Earth’s oceans, from tidal waters to as deep as 35,000 feet. Humans aren’t the only ones to like the taste of urchins, which are the favourite snack of sea otters and other marine creatures. But whereas the only price these animals pay them is the effort it takes to fish them out of the sea and chow down without getting speared by their spines, people in some parts of the world are willing the part with as much as $360 per kilo for urchin gonads.
What are sea urchins?
Sea urchins are echinoderms, invertebrates like starfish. Their spiny round shells conceal five sections of bright yellow-orange gonads, the edible part.
Is sea urchin healthy?
Uni, like most seafood, is a good source of protein, and is also high in minerals like zinc. It offers omega-3 fats and in some cultures is considered an aphrodisiac. It does not carry the risk of high mercury concentration that some seafood does.
What does sea urchin taste like?
Sea urchin is a little briny but not overly salty. Fresh ones should hit of sweet, ocean flavour with an iron and zinc taste on the tongue. There's a strong mineral, seaweed hit to Uni and it should be creamy in texture. Older ones feel slimy on the tongue and it can quickly go bad and taste very bitter.
Watch the video below as BuzzFeed round up a group of American diners who have never had the pleasure of tasting sea urchin before.
Take a look.
Uni in the hands of chefs
Sea urchin, as a lesser-known ingredient in the Western world, adds an element of surprise, or even disorientation, to a dish. Perhaps it is this quality that makes it a darling of professional cooks, who use it to fashion dishes like petrale sole with mushrooms and uni butter; the egg on egg on egg, which combines sea urchin, scrambled egg, and sturgeon caviar; or saffron spaghetti with uni sauce, clams, and sweet peppers.
How do you eat sea urchins?
Sea urchins can be eaten in a variety of different ways, simply with soft white bread or accompanied by a glass of champagne. As well as being popular in Japan, they are also traditionally served with pasta in the south of Italy, where they are known as 'ricci di mare' or sea hedgehogs. This A to Z of sea urchins will tell you everything you need to know.