Sea urchins are spiny-shelled echinoderms. They are closely related to sand dollars and starfish. Uni, pronounced oo-nee, are actually sea urchin roe. These bright yellow to bright orange lobes are considered a delicacy to some. They are often used in sushi, over pasta, and in butter.
Uni is wild caught, predominantly done by diver hand harvesting, or Draggers. Although there are hundreds of species of sea urchins in the world, there are only 18 kinds that are actually edible. How can you tell if uni is fresh? It all comes down to taste, color, freshness and texture. The highest grade uni is vibrant in color, firm, but melts in your mouth in texture, and should always have a delicate smell of the ocean – never fishy. One thing to note is region to region you will find subtle differences in the uni, including size, color and taste. Regardless, fresh uni will always have the characteristics listed above.
Uni is light and buttery in texture. Its taste is mild with a subtle hint of sweetness. Uni is often referred to as the foie gras, or ice cream of the sea. One great thing about Uni is it typically acts like a sponge, taking on the other flavors it is paired with, which allows a lot of versatility in whichever dish you choose to make. Some of the more common uses of uni include: sauced over pasta, pureed into butter, put in stews and soups, omelettes or sometimes even used as a garnish.
This week we will take our freshest Maine uni and turn it into a butter used to spread over fresh crusty bread! You will not want to miss out on this one! Stay tuned to watch our creation come to life on our Facebook, Instqgram and Youtube pages, @harborfishmarket!