In spite of its rather odd spiny appearance the sea urchin is recognised as a delicacy in many different cuisines around the world. They have a rich flavours that really encapsulate the taste of the ocean (in a similar way to a fresh oyster). They are known as “Uni” in Japan where they are highly prized, often used in sushi, or served sashimi-style. In Spanish they are called “erizo de mar” which translates as sea hedgehog. This connects neatly with the old English meaning of urchin which is also – hedgehog.

About The Sea Urchin

There are many different types of sea urchin however only a few are good for eating. In the UK you will usually see the edible or common sea urchin which is a little smaller than a tennis ball and typically purple green in colour though they can also be pinkish.  Unlike the longer spined black urchins you need to avoid on a beach holiday these edible urchins live further offshore on outcrops where they graze rocky surfaces for plant life and invertebrates.

Preparing A Sea Urchin

Only a small part of the sea urchin is eaten. These are the five fleshy strips that are found along the inside of the shell. These are often referred to as “roe” but are not in fact eggs  but the ‘gonads’ or sex organs. They have a delicate taste quite sweet with salty sea flavours. It is this combined with the smooth texture and aroma that appeals to aficionados.

To remove these five red-orange strips you need to break into the shell without damaging them. The best way of doing this is to hold the urchin in a cloth and use a pair of scissors and cut out a 2.5cm (approx) disc from the bottom.

Drain any liquids from the shell remove the darker matter and rinse.  At this stage you can see the orange strips that go up the inside of the shell. With the target in sight scrape gently with a spoon to remove each one whole. Rinse them, if you are not eating right away keep them chilled but not for too long.

Sea urchin is an unusual ingredient and recipes pair it with scrambled eggs or stirred in to a hot pasta such as tagliatelle in Italy or into noodles in Japan. However it is probably at its best when treated like caviar, eaten straight away with nothing more than a little bread, toast or biscuit.

Sea Urchins From Walter Purkis

We have fresh sea urchin in the shop on a regular basis so keep an eye out for them. If you want to place a special order please get in touch >>