Category Archives: Sea Urchin

Japanese Seafood Species 1: Sea Urchin-Uni-海栗

Aka Uni/Red Sea Urchin Roe

Sea urchins, or uni/海栗 (“Sea Chestbuts”) in Japanese, are popular in many countries, but maybe not as much as in Japan!
The situation sometimes is becoming ridiculous as time and again Chinese and North Korrean ships are caught poaching sea urchins in the Japan seas to export them later to Japan!

There are many kinds of sea urchins, some great, some barely acceptable, and many inedible.
I will keep this posting to the most popular ones in Japan.


Ezobafun-uni, or Kaze, or Kanze are best appreciated in Spring.
Most are caught off Hokkaido.
As its name in Japanese says (Sea Chestnut), when fresh it has a firm texture and tastes like chestnuts.

Extravagant Bafun Uni Donburi!

Its roe is a beautiful orange.
Beware of imported copies that don’t mely in your mouth!

Beautiful as sushi nigiri or gunkan!



Appearing on the markets between early Summer and Atumn, domestic specimen come from Hokkaido (12,000 tonnes).

Please note the different colour, more yellowish.
It is widely imported from Russia (6.200 tonnes), USA (2,600 tonnes), Chili (2,100 tonnes), Canada (800 tonnes) and Kora (300 tonnes).

Great as sushi nigiri!
Good quality specimens should be firm, with a definite shape, and leave a yellow colour inside its box or on chopsticks!


Chili-Uni/Sea Urchin from Chili is considered as the best imported sea urchin in Japan and merits a special mention.

Beautiful served as sushi gunkan!


Aka-uni/Red sea Urchin, although of a lower grade, is considered a choice morsel.


Aka uni roe, some of which will find its way in the following dishes!


There are countless ways of cooking and using sea urchins!
The following are just suggestions.


Uni Chyawan Mushi


Cold Pepperocino Sea Urchin Spaghetti


Sea Urchi Gratin in its shell


Another Sea Urchin Gratin in its shell.


Sea Urchin Pilaf


Uni-Renkon: Sea Urchin cooked inside slices of Lotus roots


Sea Urchin Shou-mai


Sea Urchi Tofu and Avocado Millefeuille


Sea Urchin and Tofu Soup


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Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Marine products: the bright side and the dark side

Please check the new postings at:
sake, shochu and sushi



The bright side:
“Taka Ashi Gani” (“Tall Leg Crab”), the largest crab in the world found in Suruga Bay, notably off the northwestern part of Izu peninsula has significantly in numbers in recent years.
Fishermen realized they were catching to many young specimen in the deep sea nets. They decided to preserve the caught crabs and with the help of Heda Marine Association taught local children about the importance to preserve marine resources and replenish existing stocks when they show the crabs to the kids every year before releasing them back to depths of 500 metres about one kilometre off Heda Harbour.

The dark side:
uni.jpg namako.jpg
Poachers have increasingly caught “uni” (sea urchins) and “namko” (Sea slug/beche de mer) and the Japanese had to take drastic measures with boat confiscations, heavy fines (between 100,000 yen and 2,000,000 yen) and even prison sentences.
Sea urchins will find high prices on the Japanese markets while China and Hong Kong have an unquenchable craving for sea slugs.
Both command higher and higher prices, due to the decreasing catches and measures to preserve stocks.
As an indication, illegal poaching cases increased from over 900 in 2002 to more than 1,200 in 2004 and still on the way up!
On the other hand the legal export of sea slugs has increased by 43.5 % from 2004 to 2005 to reach 7,900,000,000 yen in sales of which China’s share amounts to 520,000,000 yen, an increase of 60% in one single year.
The total illegal catch was 32 tonnes last year in Hokkaido.