Sea urchins– these spiky squish ball-like shellfish are edible and make a completely different tier when considering seafood.
You might have heard of seaside accidents involving sea urchins, but they’re not all poisonous, and in the culinary world, they’re considered a delicacy.
You’ll most commonly find them in Japanese cuisine.
Their creative cooking methods have inspired every part of the world to try and witness the flavor of these unfriendly-looking shellfish.
If they’re so prized, what does sea urchin taste like? We’ll find out soon enough.
What Is Sea Urchin?
You’ll know what these fishes are if you picture the term ‘porcupines of the sea.
‘ Yes, it’s a sea urchin’s famous nickname.
The word ‘urchin’ is another name for ‘hedgehog,’ so their name is plain and easy to understand because it describes their appearance.
These shellfish are filter-feeders.
And they appear round, spiny, and small, with an average maximum diameter of 4 inches.
You’ll most commonly find them in black, red, pink, green, and yellow.
And they will be available year-round or seasonal, depending on the species or the region you live in and the coastal fishing restrictions.
Sea urchins are commonly sighted in most places in the markets from September through May.
They may not seem like it, but they are packed with protein, minerals, beta carotene, and dietary fiber.
And it has everyone’s favorite– omega-3 fatty acids.
It’s no secret that the Japanese are responsible for much of the hype on this seafood.
And they’re gradually finding prominence in menus, more preferred raw than cooked.
What Does Sea Urchin Taste Like?
Firstly, you cannot eat every part of the sea urchins.
As odd as it may sound, only their gonads are edible, and these are also referred to as sea urchin roe; they appear mustard yellow in color.
Sea urchins taste like a toned-down version of oysters and caviars.
They have a flavor profile ranging from sweet to salty with a robust smell.
And they’ll taste differently depending on their sex and what they’ve fed on.
Male roe tastes sweet, while female roe is somewhat bitter and has a more robust odor.
But you can adjust these flavors with different cooking methods and strong seasonings.
One trick to make your sea urchins taste best is to eat them while they’re fresh.
They’ll lose flavor and shape the longer you keep them.
With just a bite, the mild umami flavor quickly captures your taste buds and lingers for a while before diminishing with a briny aftertaste.
But this doesn’t mean they are fishy.
Meanwhile, the texture can be delicate and buttery or creamy.
It will instantly melt in your mouth.
So, when you’re eating a sea urchin, you have a complex taste and fun texture with the scent of the sea.
The main difference you’ll find between the much similar caviar and sea urchin is that the former tastes fishy and salty, which gives it away as being typical seafood.
And if you were to consider oysters, you cannot pinpoint one particular taste since they have varying flavors.
But they, too, taste mildly salty.
However, a sea urchin’s taste may lean more towards oysters because both taste like the prey they’ve fed on.
How to Cook Sea Urchin?
Now that you know these sometimes-venomous spiny balls of fish are a treat to your palate, let’s look at some ways to make them delectable.
- Sashimi: No one does it better than the Japanese when it comes to preparing raw seafood. The intricate cuts and beautiful presentation are not just for show; every ingredient in sashimi is carefully selected to complement the other’s taste. And they’re all united by a rich sauce.
- Sushi: This is another Japanese dish that you can use raw sea urchin in and is more filling because of the rice and other vegetables added to it. Nonetheless, the sushi rice binds them all together in a flavorful harmony.
- Pasta: This one’s easy, and you can use either cooked or raw sea urchin. You only need to add them to cooked pasta and let the heat naturally infuse the fish.
- Tempura: A tempura batter can enhance the taste of any food, and this is particularly a go-to recipe if you don’t like your sea urchin raw. For this method, you needn’t wait for the sea urchin to cook; just wait until the batter looks golden and cooked enough.
How to Buy Sea Urchin?
It’s easy to get a wrong and potentially harmful sea urchin when you’re at a fishmonger’s.
So, keep yourself shopping-ready with these few tips:
- Know each species’ season: There may not be many differences between each species, but some prefer one over the other. The most popular green sea urchins are mostly available in winter, while the purple ones are perennial. .
- Buy live sea urchin: The easiest possible way to tell the fish is fresh is to buy a live one. When you do so, you also have the option of asking for a cleanup (if the fishmonger agrees) to consume the sea urchin right then and there.
- Try a sight and smell test: If you’re looking for the best-tasting sea urchins, get the ones that look vibrant and don’t smell fishy. A delicate, briny smell is what you should receive when you smell it. Anything fishy is already on the first of spoiling. .
- Keep the frozen ones as the final resort: Frozen food always lacks flavor more than its original, and it’s the same with sea urchins. Buy them only when you don’t find any fresh ones.
Looking at a sea urchin, you might want to squish it but don’t.
Their taste is enough to satisfy you and your hungry palate.
The umami flavors of sea urchins are often mistaken for fishy, so be cautious of the smell you get when you’re buying them.
They should be vibrant and smell briny.
Since there are many species, it’s always best to buy them from a reputed someone who knows them well.
And since you can prepare them raw or cooked, your options are endless.