Sea urchins, or uni, belong to the phylum of echinoderms, the same as sea cucumbers. Though there are approximately one hundred and sixty types of sea urchins found in the sea surrounding Japan, only a few are suitable to be eaten.
Long ago, sea urchins were considered a nuisance because their feeding habits disrupted the production of kelp. However, currently they are highly valued as a delicacy.
Northern sea urchin and short-spined sea urchin are two types of urchins collected for food on the coast of Aomori. Both belong to the Strongylocentrotidae family. Known as “nona,” northern sea urchins live in waters at depths of 60 meters or less (196 ft) on shore reefs and rocks. The shell of large northern sea urchins can grow to be wider than 15 cm (5.9 inches) in diameter. Short-spined sea urchins are called “gaze,” found in shallower waters of 20 meters or less on shore reefs and rocks. Short-spined sea urchins only grow to be 7~8 cm (3 inches) in diameter. The gonads, often referred to as sea urchin roe, are the parts harvested for food. In addition to sushi, sea urchin can be used in steamed dishes, made into a paste, and salted sea urchin.
While northern sea urchins have a refreshing, mild taste, the short-spined urchin has a deep rich flavor
Salted Sea Urchin
While fresh uni, or sea urchin can only be enjoyed between the months of May and August, salted sea urchin makes it possible for us to enjoy uni year-round. The uni which are salted and aged are called “shio uni.” Major production areas for this artisanal product are the village of Sai and the town of Oma in the Shimokita peninsula and Sotogahama in the Tsugaru peninsula. The products vary slightly in saltiness and flavor. Shio uni is a versatile ingredient, great to accompany meals as well as to be eaten as a snack. It is a great way to enjoy uni, especially because the umami of fresh sea urchin becomes concentrated, brims with rich flavor and retains the natural sweetness of fresh sea urchin.
in season distribution period
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Depending on the season and weather, this product may not be available.
Local Dish Using Sea Urchin
“Ichigoni” is a type of soup made with sea urchin and abalone in a seafood broth. It is a local specialty of Hashikami town in Aomori prefecture.