recipe, Seafood

Uni ($5.99 @ Hmart & how I pry/eat it)

I wanted to work on this post earlier last week but decided to put it on the back burner (as the thought of writing/posting pics, after food poisoning, of cracking open a live uni & then eating it, made me nauseous…like, LITERALLY).

Uni has been a seafood item that I’ve wanted to fall in love with. It reminds me of love actually. Or dating (to be more accurate). For example, on paper, uni sounds amazing and the descriptions of this prickly shellfish should be quite compatible with yours truly. But once you get to know uni, what if the chemistry isn’t there. You give uni a chance, uni gives you a chance…and… what if there’s just NO chemistry. Makes sense?

I can’t believe I’m using uni to describe my dating life. I wasn’t going to use uni as a metaphor AT ALL but I guess that’s what I’m thinking right now so there ya go. I’ll post about that paper chemistry another time perhaps.

I had my first experience with a live uni at Poppa’s Fresh Fish at one of the farmer’s markets. One of his customers actually helped named this blog all that time ago.  Look at the beautiful uni I tried back then:

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The bright orange roe, leaking a bit of what seems to be uni milk (is there such a thing?), still takes my breath away. These are the best pics I’ve ever taken of a live uni.

But you either love or don’t love uni in my opinion. Oh crap, is that another dating metaphor…

I’ve tried several times to fall in love with uni and it’s been hard to even move onto a third date with him it.

I’ve been jonesing for live uni recently. Like BAD. Well, before I got sick last Monday night. I was at H Mart on weekday picking up stuff to make for dinner that night.

I was beyond excited to see that the seafood department was selling live uni for just $5.99 (each). The uni(s) were in a big tub of water (being pumped with air) so I was able to pick out which uni I wanted. It was nice not having to drive so far to find live uni for a change.

I called V to come over later as she’s never seen a live uni being opened and eaten.

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Pretty big right. That’s V holding the uni with both hands.

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Here’s the mouth side of the uni.

I’ve opened a live uni before but used scissors to cut the shell in half. That’s how I was taught and had seen others using the same technique.  But I recently saw a ‘how to open uni‘ video on Catalina Offshore’s website that seemed way easier (and smarter).

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Using two spoons, with their backs to each other, was genius.

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Insert the spoon into the mouth of the uni.

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Make sure the spoons are about half way inside the cavity of the uni and that the BACK OF THE SPOONS are touching. It should create a ‘squeezing effect’ with the handles of the spoons (hope that makes sense as I’m trying to paint a visual for those who’ve never used this technique before).

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Now give the handles a firm hard SQUEEZE.

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There should be no tension between the spoons after you give the first hard squeeze. The shell should have cracked. You can also turn the uni 90 degrees and repeat the same technique if the shell didn’t crack open enough.

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This is what you should get at the end of a successful crack (or cracks). Glorious ain’t it.


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Now gently open the two halfs.

Ok, well this is where I got confused. I forgot what to do with the purple/reddish innards of the uni once I opened it. I remember Poppa’s rinsing out each half with fresh water so that’s what I tried to do.

V had to take the pics at the point because my hands were a mess.

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The most difficult part was separating the purple/reddish film over the roe/gonads. I was also sad that the roe wasn’t as orange as I had remembered.

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Use a spoon to scoop out the roe.

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I didn’t want to show this pic as it pretty much showcases how awful of a job I was doing. But hey, trying to keep it real here.

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I think I extracted about 6 pieces. I used cold water to rinse off as much ‘film’ from the roe as possible. Then I used my fingers to GENTLY remove whatever the water couldn’t rinse off (see, finger nails come in handy).

So how did it taste.

Well. For those who have never tried uni, here’s what NOT to do when you’re consuming one. 1) DON’T have someone with you who keeps whispering ‘You’re not going to *EAT* that are you’ during the whole roe extraction process; 2) DON’T have someone with you who keeps playing with the still-moving-uni when you’re trying to eat the uni roe.

I think all this talk of killing live seafood kinda got to me (thanks J.S). It was INCREDIBLY hard, for me, to eat the roe with V hovering over me AND me staring at this:

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And then V exclaiming ‘ewwwwww….look at the sink!‘:

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I’m kind of a visual eater so all this extra stimuli just got to me. Was the roe alright nonetheless? Sure. It tastes like buttery (?) hamachi (if you close your eyes and just focus on the taste). That’s just MY interpretation of it. Peanut swears it tastes like ocean custard. I think it would help if I had the roe ice cold versus room temp.

So there ya have it. Hope this post shed a bit of insight on this mysterious creature for a few others out there.

(PS – I went to H Mart this weekend and the live uni was on sale for $4.99!)

15 thoughts on “Uni ($5.99 @ Hmart & how I pry/eat it)

  1. That metaphor is deep haha. And nice tutorial of opening up an uni. I grew up watching my parents eat this all the time. When I tried it as a kid, I thought it was the grossest thing ever. I haven’t really been tempted to try it again as an adult though.

    1. Uni Love. I’m going to use that title to describe my dating from now on.

      Where did your parents get the live uni ? What was their method of opening the uni?

      Weird side note but I had lunch with CDJ today and he was getting caught up on my dating stories. He asked if I whispered this to a guy when giving him a hug good bye:

      ” I killed Mufasa “.

      I have yet to use that.

  2. Nice to see you well enough to blog again! 🙂 Given the choice of uni or no uni I’m gonna choose to be forever alone… Watching the deconstruction of uni in vivid color has convinced me. It’s too messy Faye!

    1. Hi Soo,

      It’s good to be somewhat better to blog again 🙂

      I know PLENTY of people that won’t eat uni so they will be forever alone too. You anti-uni people can be alone together 🙂

      The deconstruction of an uni is definitely a messy job (at least for a newbie like me). Maybe with practice I’ll get better though.

      Hope your trip to SF has been a success so far Soo!

  3. Glad to see you’re doing better from the food poisoning!

    I have yet to open my own sea urchin – I keep thinking it’ll prick me or something. The urchin you got in the first pic from Poppa’s has a really nice color to it – the H-Mart one isn’t as pretty (and that might be because of the season, or perhaps they have some way of telling quality? The more orange and gold hued the roe, the better the uni, of course!)

    And yes, definitely chill it a bit before eating – aside from the really nice stuff (do try asking Tommy if they have ‘Gold’ uni when you go back to Catalina, or even the Premium quality is absolutely fantastic for ocean gonads), most uni benefits from a colder temperature to firm it up a bit.

    You know what I’ve always found weird/interesting about sea urchins? The poor things have almost no organs other than the roe. I mean, there’s basically nothing in there besides roe, and some dark stuff that probably serves to hold the roe in place – nothing else! I wonder how it survives like that? I guess the brain would be located near/in the mouth area?

    Have a good week, and hopefully you don’t get sick from food again anytime soon!

    1. Hello Ben,

      I’m doing much better. Just no arugula for the rest of the year.

      You MUST open an urchin and tell us about it. I’m curious how you would open one (based on your own research and deciding which method is best). I’m trying to remember what Tommy or Poppa’s told me about the color of the uni. I always assumed a rich bright orange roe meant higher quality as well.

      The video I linked showed the guy submersing the roe into an ice bath (to help remove that gross purplish film). I guess it’s also supposed to chill the roe huh. I have NEVER tried the uni from the bamboo trays you see at Japanese markets. Does it taste alright? I think Catalina Offshore supplies the majority of those bamboo roe trays to these markets. I thought my parents told me one must consume the roe right away (versus having it purchased later already extracted from shell).

      Here is what wiki says about the urchin’s brain “With no true brain, the neural center is a large nerve ring encircling the mouth just inside the lantern.” Yummy…

      Hope you’re enjoying the short week Ben – it’s going to be a great weekend I think 🙂

  4. I made faces and cringed the whole friggerin’ time I read this! Definitely don’t eat this in front of me, I would say similar things hahah!

    Lots of things sound good on paper but that’s why you gotta try and try again until you find the right…. uni…. for you. 😀

    1. Hi Mary,

      You SURE I can’t convince you to even TRY to crack open one of these suckers. Then we use the roe/gonads to make a Sea Urchin Brussel Sprouts stir fry.

      No? Ya sure? Do I hear crickets…

      I will find the right uni. I know it. Or maybe the uni will find me 🙂

      Thanks for giving me a comment hug Miss Mary 😉

      1. I made another “ewww grosssss” face when I read “sea urchin brussel sprouts stir fry”. UGH hahah! You make that for me and I’m make you a nice bit of nachos with blue cheese sauce and lamb on it. I’m sure you will LOVE it. 😀 😀

  5. Hahha I was getting squeamish with the part where you’re sticking spoons into its mouth and then using it to pry the thing apart. And ahhh I agree with Peanut that it tastes like ocean custard. It’s like someone took the smell of the ocean on a hot muggy summer day and then infused it into cream.

    I am like you, I wantttt to like it because its supposed to be so magical and delicious but I just don’t when its by itself. I’ve had it at really great sushi restaurants and even then I still have to choke it down and then I regret paying for something I can barely keep down.

    I’ve had it used as an accent and that’s ok, like when its used as a sauce on pasta. Or once I had sweet shrimp with uni sauce. I think I need something tart or sweet to balance how salty/rich it is.

    1. HI JS!

      Yeah. I wish you could have seen the hesitation before I jammed the two spoons into the uni mouth. It took me a few ‘sample strikes’ before I finally got the courage to do it. You kinda lost me at the ‘ocean on a hot muggy summer day’. Makes me think of sweat, sand, and seagull poop 🙁 I’m determined to find uni that makes me think of you and Peanut’s coveted ‘ocean custard’ visual.

      Have you tried the prepackaged uni you see at the Japanese markets? Please tell me how they taste if you have. Sis and I have yet to purchase those prepackaged ones.

      Ohhhh sweet shrimp with uni sauce! Was it amaebi? Did you eat the shrimp raw? Oh man we should do that – amaebi nigiri with an uni foam sauce or something !

      Hope you had a great 4th of July weekend JS –

  6. I was at the farmers market a couple weeks ago and saw a live uni… and thought of you! I was curious but not curious enough to eat one though! It looks so incredibly spikey! The picture lesson is incredibly helpful though. I had no idea what it looked like inside or what it was!

    1. Hi Lynn

      Did you see the live uni at Little Italy? That might been Poppa’s Fresh Fish whom I first tried out my first uni. The inside of an uni (the purplish/reddish film) is disturbing if you’re a visual eater. I highly suggest you NOT watch someone extra the roe if you’re trying to eat uni for the first time. Maybe gather the courage to have uni at a restaurant where they serve the cold fresh uni roe over sweet, vinegary sushi rice. Let me know if you ever try uni though!

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