Sea urchins are spiny and globular in shape and members of the phylum Echinodermata. Just like other echinoderms, Sea urchins too have five-fold symmetry. Though we can’t see that in living animal but it’s clearly visible in dried test. Around 950 species of sea urchin live on the seabed of every ocean and inhabit different depth zone varying from the intertidal seashore down to 5,000 meters. Sea Urchins typically range in size from 3 to 10 cm (diameter wise).
What does Sea Urchins eat?
Sea urchins mainly rely on algae as their primarily source of food so they are primarily herbivores, but they can feed on sea cucumbers and a wide range of invertebrates, such as sponges, brittle stars, mussels, and polychaetes which makes them omnivores.
Sea Urchins habitat and Range
Sea urchins are mostly found in seabed habitats from the intertidal downwards and the depth can have a wide range. Though if we compare from the other echinoderms family, sea urchins are living in the least depth of the sea, compared to brittle stars and starfish that remain abundant below 8,000 m and sea cucumbers have been recorded at the depth of 10,000 m. Sea Urchins population density is more in barren areas as compared to kelp stands. The shingle urchin is one of the exceptions as it can survive many hours out of water. Usually, Sea urchins can be found in all climates, ranging from polar oceans to warm seas. United States and South Korea are the largest producers of the Sea Urchins.
Sea Urchins as a Food and Can we eat them?
At first glance when you see these spiny, scary-looking sea urchin you probably don’t think that these creatures are edible and can be served as food. But you are wrong, Sea Urchin Foods Do exist! Sea urchin, normally known as uni, is a delicacy in many parts of the world. Sea Urchins are well known for a creamy and buttery flavour and is usually eaten right out of the shell. If you want to explore yourself how does a Sea Urchin food tastes, then go out to fish market and buy a fresh one and give it a try. The first taste of sea urchin food is sticky, fermented, and oceanic.
Sea Urchin food History
The gonads of both male and female sea urchins are culinary delicacy in many parts of the world, especially in Japan. Usually, it is served raw as sashimi or in sushi, with soy sauce and wasabi. Japan consumes more than 50,000 tons annually which is around 80% of global production. Sea urchin also can be served as flavour omelettes, fish soup, scrambled eggs, and mayonnaise.
Preparation of Sea Urchin Food at Home
If you want to prepare the Sea Urchin food at home below are the quick steps which you can follow:
- Buy a fresh smelling live sea urchin from the Market- Sea Urchin decay very quickly after death so they are sold live. Buy Sea Urchins that don’t smell pungent or fishy, as they would be the fresh one. Always prefer green, Purple, or red Sea Urchins.
- Cut the Sea urchin with scissors around the base- Flip the urchin upside down. You would be able to notice a small mouth on the bottom. Then cut all around the base of the urchin with scissors. Afterwards lift this part off to extract the edible innards. Always do this exercise over a sink as spines of the urchin might fall off while you’re cutting.
- Drain out all the liquid from the urchin- The urchin contains dark liquid and seawater. So, hold it over a sink flip it upside down to drain all this unwanted liquid.
- Scrape off the orange gonads inside the shell- Now when you open the Sea urchin, you’ll find 5 orange coloured tongue-like structures. These are sexual organs of Sea Urchins which are also called the gonads. They’re the edible parts of the sea urchin. Take a spoon and scrape each one out. Please make sure that you don’t eat anything else inside the shell except gonads. One more important point to take a not off- If the gonads are brown in colour, then don’t eat them as it means that the sea urchin is spoiled.
- Rinse off the gonads in salt water- Once you have scraped out the gonads transfer them to a bowl and rinse them in a salt water to get rid of any brown residue from inside the Sea urchin.
- Keep the urchins chilled- Its highly recommended to put the sea urchins in ice or in the refrigerator if you’re not going to eat them right away. This will prevent Sea Urchins from spoiling. Though Master Chefs recommends eating Sea Urchins right away even if they are chilled, as Urchin Spoils very quickly.
Ways of eating Sea Urchin Food-
There are different ways by which you can intake sea urchins, lets have a quick look below on some of those:
- Eat the Urchin gonads raw-This is the most popular way to eat Sea Urchin- when the gonads are all cleaned just intake their pieces and enjoy the buttery and sweet flavour.
- Take it with some soy sauce or added Flavour- One can add some soy sauce with Urchin if he feels like it needs more flavour or it’s too fishy.
- Take Urchin with piece of bread and butter- Take a raw piece of Urchin gonads and place it over bread or toast and apply small amount of butter to it.
- Traditional dish in Japan- the most common way to eat uni in Japan is that they simply add some uni pieces to a bowl of rice and eat.
- Add Urchin with Pasta-Because of the creamy flavour of sea archin you can also add it with pasta as a whole or just sprinkle over it and you can intake further with creamy sauces.
- With Scrambled Egg- This is another way to intake sea archin, just chop the gonads and sprinkle it into your eggs.
- Complement the Sea Urchin with Alcohol-If you are eating Uni as raw It’s customary to sip on an alcoholic drink. This complement the Sea Urchin flavour best. In Japan, sake is the main drink which people take with uni.