About Sea Urchin

What is Uni?

In the Japanese Kanji, sea urchin is written as “Sea liver” or “Sea chestnut”. They are small and spiny and some of the species are even poisonous. Scientific name is echinoderm and despite their spiny appearance they are close in kin to sea cucumbers and sea stars.

Sea Urchins are found along the shores and coast lines. In Japan, 40% of all landed sea urchins are from Hokkaido. About 800 species of echinoids inhabit all oceans in the world, but only the Bafun Uni, Ezo-Bafun Uni, Purple Uni, and the Red Uni are edible.

When did Uni become food and what part is edible

Remains of sea urchin shell were unearthed from ruins and shell mounds of the Jomon period. It revealed that ancient Japanese have eaten sea urchin for thousands of years. Upper-class aristocrats ate sea urchin, sea bream, and abalone at feasts. We eat the orange/yellow part of the sea urchin. These are unmatured gonads. Sea urchins have 5 gonads but it is difficult to tell its sex from just looking. The gonads are nutrient rich and usually taste best before the spawning process begins.

Is Uni harvested in USA?

In 2005, the total import of sea urchin in Japan was approximately 2,195 tons in total. Top 3 countries to export into Japan were, USA, Chile, and Canada.
Santa Barbara is located in northwest of Los Angeles. Santa Barbara is the biggest production area in Southern California.

This is the area where the cold current from Alaska flows into the California Ocean where there are several small islands to harvest. Low ocean temperature helps flourish the kelp beds in which the urchins like to feed.

What do they call “Uni” in English?

Uni is called sea urchin in English. When translated, it means “the mischievous child of the sea”. Sea Urchin has been thought to be a nuisance in which it damaged and depleted fishing grounds. Initially, these urchins were being destroyed and thrown away. Urchins prefer to feed on kelp and when they feed on the kelp’s holdfast, the kelp will become week and tear away from the ground.

Is Uni really nutritious?

Sea Urchin is rich in nutrients. High in vitamin A, it is very healthy for the skin. Vitamin A is key for good vision, a healthy immune system, and cell growth.

Does larger size uni taste better?

The sea urchin caught off the coast of Southern California is Red Sea Urchin. It is larger in size than the Bafun uni, which is popular in Japan. Despite being larger in size, there is no compromise in taste. Red sea urchin is very sweet and delicious and fruity in taste. At certain times of the season, there may be a slight bitterness and briny taste. This is completely natural and due to the season and type of feed around the harvest area. Certain types of kelp are higher in iodine content, and sea urchin that feed off this kelp will sometimes have a slightly bitter flavor to it.

Can we freeze Uni?

Fresh sea urchin will have a shelf life of about a week. Please consume the fresh uni as soon as you can. We do not recommend freezing fresh uni due to its delicate nature. Our Uni Shutou is marinated first in a kelp seasoned brine, and is stored frozen.