A green sea urchin crawled into our shrimp pots this weekend, so it’s the perfect time to put together a post on how to clean these intimidating little creatures. Normally the only way to collect these spiny gems is to dive and hand-harvest them, but if you’re as lucky as we were, they just may find you.
Now Tim and I have never had sea urchin before, and since the point of The Living Alaska Project is to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and to experience more, eating sea urchin seemed like a great opportunity. We did a bit of research on urchin prep, and this was our winning method.
The edible part of the sea urchin is its gonads, the 5 bright orange or yellow sacs that are attached to the inside of the test, or shell. They are commercially referred to as ‘roe’ since they resemble fish egg sacs. Sea urchin roe is considered a delicacy in many cuisines. Urchin roe is regularly consumed along the Mediterranean, and is particularly relished in Japan where it is called uni. It is very sweet and delicate, and it tastes like the sea smells, with a soft, almost creamy texture.
Begin with your sea urchin. We caught a green urchin which typically grows 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
Flip the sea urchin over to expose its mouth. You’ll notice it’s white teeth in the center surrounded by a fleshy ring.
Many people use scissors to cut the bottoms off urchins, and some people even have special urchin-opening tools. I prefer to use the fork method because it’s simple and everyone has forks. I found this method on the blog Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, and I love it. You insert one tine of your fork into the shell near the sea urchin’s mouth and work the fork around in a circle like the aforementioned blog’s author notes “an army-issue can-opener.”
Using the fork just like an old-fashioned can opener, work your way around the shell in a circle. . .
. . . until the bottom of the urchin’s shell can be removed.
Once you remove the bottom of the shell, the urchin’s innards are exposed. I’ve heard some people sip the fluid out first, but I just dump it out.
Next, try to very carefully remove all the dark bits. Remove all the innards except for the brightly colored gonads.
Once the dark matter is removed you’re left with five tongues of roe still attached to the test.
At this point you can carefully scoop each tongue of roe out and eat it strait from the shell, or use it in your favorite sea urchin recipe. We just enjoyed ours as sashimi.
Sea Urchin Roe
Don’t be afraid to try something new!
Just a small side note: there are over 500 species of urchins. Green, red and purple are most commonly sold commercially, so I trust those as being safe. I don’t know if all urchin species are edible, so I personally would stick to those three common species.