My One and Uni: Why is Everyone Obsessed With Uni Right Now?
“Have you tried uni?”
Sea urchin, or “uni” in Japanese, is the hottest seafood right now. The sweet, creamy roe that is gold in color, briny in flavor, and delicate in texture, is unlike any other seafood. Uni is best enjoyed on its own or in simple recipes where the roe is the star, usually paired with a carb like pasta or rice so the richness can really shine.
At FultonFishMarket.com, we’re the authorities on all things seafood… including uni. We source sustainably-harvested and wild-caught uni, so that you can enjoy uni when its at its seasonal best.
So, What is Uni?
Uni is Japanese for sea urchin, a close relative of the starfish, the sand dollar, and the sea cucumber.
Encased in a hard shell, the sea urchin is best known for its long, sharp spines - think of it as an underwater hedgehog (in fact, sea urchin in Spanish is hedgehog of the sea). Those spines, along with its tubular tentacles, protect the sea urchin from predators and allow it to move across the ocean floor in coral reefs, on rock surfaces, or in shallow tide pools. Look out for them when you’re snorkeling or diving in many parts of the world (just don’t step on one!)
The only part of the sea urchin uni that is edible is the roe, which is actually the gonads. The best time to enjoy uni is during spawning season, usually in late summer/fall.
What Does Uni Taste Like?
Uni has a uniquely savory, briny and umami flavor, with a buttery, melt in the mouth texture. Depending on which uni you’re tasting, you might also pick up sweet or metallic notes.
What is the Difference Between West Coast Uni and East Coast Uni?
West Coast uni is known for its thick and rich texture that is perhaps more delicate than its East Coast counterparts. East Coast uni, a bright yellow to West Coast uni’s golden orange, is firm and brinier.
While both coasts provide delicious, creamy uni, keep in mind that different recipes fare better with each variety of uni. We love West Coast uni’s milder flavor in cold recipes like sushi, whereas East Coast uni’s more assertive flavor can hold up to hot preparations like pastas or eggs.
At the moment our West Coast uni comes from San Diego while East Coast uni comes from the region known as the Gulf of Maine, harvested from Maine into the Canadian Maritimes.
Uni Around the World
A staple in Japanese cuisine, one of the most popular ways to enjoy uni and a fixture on omakase menus is in nigiri sushi, uni placed atop seasoned rice. Another favorite is uni chawanmushi, a savory steamed egg custard. We love uni in chirashi, a mix of raw seafood including uni fish on top of sushi rice. It’s an easy Japanese dinner - read on for our simple uni on rice recipe below.
Besides Japan, uni is prized in other parts of the world, like in the South of France, where raw sea urchin is served with slices of fresh baguette and butter. Italians enjoy a seasonal preparation of sea urchins, or “ricci di mare,” in spaghetti with butter and lemon. Try our uni pasta recipe that’s easy to make at home.
How to Enjoy Uni at Home
We’ve done the hard work for you, removing the sea urchin roe from the spiny shell, so go ahead and enjoy your tray of uni sea urchin as soon as it arrives on your doorstep. It’s best to eat uni the same day it’s delivered for optimal taste and freshness.
Serve uni over rice, with eggs or in an uni pasta, just remember less is more. Here are our favorite uni recipes to try at home.
Rice bowls are easy to prepare at home - especially because their ingredients are so flexible. You can add pickled beets, daikon radish, or ginger. The addition of other seafood like lump crabmeat or ahi tuna is also welcome… Just don’t leave out the uni!
Uni pasta might sound fancy but is easy to make at home and ready in minutes. A thin pasta such as angel hair or thin spaghetti is ideal for the creamy uni butter sauce. The results are addictive.
Sure you could visit your favorite sushi counter, but making uni nigiri sushi is easy (and fun) at home. Impress your friends by a sushi dinner party, or treat yourself to a platter of homemade uni sushi when you don’t want to share. No judgement. Either way, you’ll love this recipe.