Yes, every uni lover should get their own from live sea urchins from time to time. It’s a pain in the ass! So naturally it’s guaranteed to make you appreciate your local sushi chef serving you straight out of his newly opened box of california gold uni. That heightened appreciation is the goal, unless you’re so infatuated with freshness that the work required seems fairly compensated.
So you start by going to wherever it is that you buy sea urchins. In this case it’s the local restaurant supply. Yes you can purchase sushi roe online today, in case you live in Kansas. They had these lovely green specimens today, so I bought a bagful. They’re cheap compared to the uni you buy at the sushi bar, believe me. I bought a couple pound bag for the price of one gunkan uni sushi at many places.
Step one – take some out of the bag and prepare to cut them open. You’ll need heavy rubber gloves, these guys have sharp spines. A sharp paring knife or kitchen shears will be needed because their shells are harder than they look.
Also get a dull small knife or spoon to scoop out the prized organs, and a bowl of water to rinse. Yes, they need to be rinsed off carefully to avoid eating dirty uni.
I cut a circle around the top, like I’m cutting open a pumpkin. And be careful not to dig the knife in too deep so you don’t disturb the contents inside. Go ahead and dump out the watery stuff inside. Did I mention that you need to do this over the sink?
As you can see I didn’t really do a great job of cutting open the shell evenly. That means extra care must be taken to avoid getting pieces of shell in with the uni. That would really ruin the texture don’t you think?
Now the skill part. Run your paring knife just under the strands of tissue that cover the uni, cutting them to free the uni. Now the stage has been set; nothing left but extraction. Gently run the dull knife or spoon under the top edge of the uni and follow it all the way down. Scoop it up and then drop it gently into the rinse water.
Repeat until all uni sections have been removed and placed in the bowl of water. Make sure all excess tissue floating in your water is drained off, rinse again if necessary. Now remove your uni and eat!
As you can probably tell, this was my first attempt at procuring fresh uni. I kind of mangled the early ones, but felt that I made great progress after the first few. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still buy uni next time instead. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you see a post about uni pasta tomorrow.