If you consider yourself a sushi connoisseur, you will have undoubtedly tried uni at least once. The flavor may be an acquired taste for some. Others enjoy it only on occasion, as it is not served everywhere and typically priced higher than other sushi fish.
What exactly is uni?
Uni is in fact the roe-producing organs of the spiny sea urchin. You would do well to avoid when stepping barefoot on these when they lie beneath sea waters. But when seated safely at your favorite restaurant, if you find uni on the menu, you should definitely give it a try. Not only is it much safer in this form, it delivers a rich umami flavor, as well as some healthy benefits to the body.
It isn’t just for sushi either, although that is where it might be most commonly found on the menu. Uni typically fetches a higher price due to the labor involved in harvesting it. After collecting the sea urchins, they must be cracked open and cleaned. Only five pieces of uni are harvested from each sea urchin, which also must be cleaned, then packed and shipped.
Uni is shipped fresh, and so must also be purchased quickly, before it spoils. It is purchased mostly by sushi restaurants, and occasionally some Asian supermarkets. When you see uni either in the market or at a restaurant, it may appear either yellow or orange in color.
How does it taste?
Uni is soft and buttery, and the taste can vary according to the region it is harvested from. It has been compared to lobster or oysters, albeit slightly fishier. You can taste it best in its pure form as nigiri sushi, but chefs are often finding new and interesting ways to use it in other dishes.
Why should you eat it?
In addition to the chance to consume uni somewhat as a delicacy, there are healthy reasons you might seek to enjoy it as well.
- High in protein.
- A good source of fiber.
- A healthy source of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, calcium, and iodine.
- Promote good blood circulation.
- A great snack for those watching their weight. It’s low in fat and carbohydrates, and contains only about 125 calories per 2-3 pieces.
On a side note, the Japanese also consider it to be a good aphrodisiac.
Where can you try?
Aside from trying uni as sushi, you should sample it in other dishes as well. In New York City, you can visit a few restaurants that use it in other tasty and inventive ways. Wasan Brooklyn has a dish on its menu specially made for uni lovers, aptly named “Uni Lover.” It showcases the uni quite well, with accompaniments of avocado and uni chips in a garlic-peanut oil sauce.
You’ll also find a few popular sea urchin dishes at SakaMai. One of their best is “Egg on egg on egg.” It consists of scrambled egg, sturgeon caviar, and sea urchin, and is not to be missed!
As you discover more restaurants serving Japanese fusion, don’t be surprised to come across pasta dishes with uni, uni on toast, or a crab and uni parfait!