Tasty Uni: From the Gonads of Sea Urchins

Worth its Weight in Gold

Uni is the edible part of the spiky and intimidating sea urchin, a common delicacy throughout Japan and in many Mediterranean countries. Present in all marine ecosystems and all climates, the sea urchin is usually found in temperate and tropical coasts, and is one of the deepest-living creatures of the ocean. Small, rounded, and possessed of a hard shell, it resembles a small hedgehog with all its prickly spines. The gonads of both male and female sea urchins, called roe, are the tasty part, best eaten raw and used in culinary dishes around the world. In Japan, uni is served raw as sashimi or in sushi, with soy sauce and wasabi. Japan imports large quantities from the United States, South Korea, and other producers.

Uni’s color ranges from rich gold to light yellow, and has a creamy consistency. It is a sushi item enjoyed as nigiri sushi or sashimi; has a light, sweet, and briny flavor. Although it is harvested around the world, sea urchins are a rare treat especially for those who have acquired a taste for it. Due to its high demand, they fetch a hefty price; it can retail for as much as $450/kg. Harvesting uni is also a very delicate process as its meat falls apart easily. Uni is a seasonal item and by Japanese standard, the best catch is served from late fall through the winter, with December considered the best month.

Uni is graded based on color, texture, and freshness. Grade A is the highest grade, a bright yellow or gold with a firm texture and slightly sweet. Grade B uni is a muted yellow, has a softer texture and is less sweet. When the uni has broken apart during processing or handling it is a Grade C. So the higher the grade, the more pricey is the uni, and fresh uni taken directly from a living sea urchin will command the highest price. The color and quality of uni is largely dependant on its diet, gender, and time of harvest.

Does uni have any health benefits? For one, eating sea urchins is said to enhance virility; it’s a popular aphrodisiac. Other benefits include that of being a protein source, a high dietary fiber source, sufficient supply of vitamin C and, to boost the immune system, it supplies beta carotene.

Developing a Taste for Uni in Issaquah

At Aji Sushi, your trendy Japanese restaurant,, we serve tasty uni sushi and uni sashimi in season – only fresh, authentic sea urchin roe for our discerning diners. Get in touch now and enjoy your favorites.