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Uni

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In a recent thread on favorite sushi, I was surprised at how many people said that uni (sea urchin) was their favorite.

So I tried it -- again.

I tried the first piece with no soy/wasabi. I put it in my mouth and chewed. I kept telling myself: texture doesn't matter, texture doesn't matter, texture doesn't matter, texture doesn't matter. I kept telling myself, the taste isn't that bad, the taste isn't that bad, the taste isn't that bad, the taste isn't that bad.

But it does, and it was. I can't explain to myself what was so displeasing about the texture. I've certainly eaten lots of food with similar texture. And I can't explain the taste that I found so unpleasant. But it was.

I'm tempted to say that uni must taste differently to others. No one could like what I was tasting. Then I told myself that I don't understand the complexity of uni. But even if I read a treatise on it, I don't think I would like it.

What am I missing?

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I have had the exact same reaction with all of my uni experiences also. And I keep trying it thinking that maybe the uni that I had was not fresh or something. I will eat and enjoy everything for it's own unique characteristics. From brains to belly, no problem. Hey, I'm Italian!

But uni's combination of taste and texture just don't do it for me. I do think I could make a good creamy sauce from it though. But just sitting there on top of some rice is unpleasant to my tastebuds.

But I have a feeling I will keep trying it until I am totally sure or at least untill I see a chef pull a live urchin out of a tank, crack it open and serve it to me. I guess that's the only way I can be totally sure.

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Texture does matter. And uni has a great texture. As to flavour, the first word that came to mind when I first tasted uni was butter.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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You need to try top notch uni to be sure. Next time you're in NYC, go to Sushi Yasuda and order it there. They have the best quality I've ever had. The texture there is more custard like and less like sweetbreads, which is what lesser uni seems like (although it isn't as firm) to me. In fact I never enjoyed it until I went to SY.

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I too have an extremely high threshold for the enjoyment of Uni. If it's not alive and in season from one of the better uni-producing areas (not that I know where those are), I think it's nasty. People who eat cheap-sushi-bar uni from those wooden trays are in my opinion insane.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have had uni once, in DiSpirito’s scallop dish. Several people at the table had the same thing and appeared to enjoy it, so I’m assuming it was OK. But I tasted an unpleasant metallic flavor. I sometimes taste the same thing in lobster. I find it hard to believe that anyone could learn to like this flavor so I assume that I’ve either been unlucky or I’m tasting something that others don’t.

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Hm. What about mussels? Or oysters, clams and such?


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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The use of uni in the DiSpirito Taylor Bay Scallops dish is fantastic. The uni flavor is initially absorbed by the mustard oil and tomato water but the finish on good uni is so long, and the flavor so deep, that it's the flavor that lingers in your mouth along with the acidity of the tomato water. But I understand the metalic flavor that is being described and I agree it is sometimes present in this dish. But it's the same flavor that is present in raw oysters. Is it iodine, mercury, kryptonite, or just the way the sea water plays against the fresh water of the tomato water?

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I think uni is one of the most challenging foods out there. I've talked about it with Seattle's two lead restaurant critics, and one doesn't like it at all and the other took twenty years to appreciate it. I've tried it a couple of times and it feels like a mouthful of pond scum, but I'll keep at it (especially when I'm in Tokyo this fall), secure in the knowledge that there is pleasure to be had in there somewhere.


Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I never knew this. I had always assumed that most people like uni. :unsure:


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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With all this talk of uni, I feel like the universe is converging.

The only context I had for uni before reading about it on eguller was trying not to get too close while snorkelling. Then I started seeing several threads here about uni and an article in the New Yorker food issue about Chang Rae Lee's first experiences with uni. Last night we went out to dinner with friends and friends-of-friends and it turns out that one of them travels to Japan several time a years. We started talking about Japanese food and what the experience of eating out in Japan with his business associates is like, etc. and the first story he tells us is about being handed a live sea urchin, that the chef slits in half, and a spoon.

I think this means I should live out my dream of visiting Japan to see the snow monkeys and eat uni. :biggrin:

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bushey, do it. :wink:


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Jinmyo, and stay in ryokans and visit the hot springs.......Perhaps one day I will.

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Bushey, don't wait until you visit Japan to try uni!

I loved it at first bite, but a lot of my acquaintances think it's horrid. Uni seems to draw the same polarized reaction as cilantro: you either adore it or hate it.

The best non-sushi rendition I ever tasted was years ago at Le Bernardin: urchins served in the shell, with a silky buttery sauce enriched with more urchins. Heavenly.

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Haven't you ever been to France where a table orders one of thise gigantic Plateau de Fruits de Mer and the people are holding those fuzzy little sea urchins in their hands with the tops lopped off picking out the meat with those little metal toothpicks? All I have to say is that if French people eat it, it must be good :raz:.

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fuzzy little sea urchins
?

Am I even thinking of the same species.......the sea urchins I've seen up close and personal in crystal blue waters have not looked "fuzzy" or little. The sight of a small colony of them on the sea floor, with their black spikes poised malevolently, reduced my daughter to tears. I wonder what their natural predators are and how they handle them.

The point about the French is well taken. Now I've simply got to try 'em.

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I'm tempted to say that uni must taste differently to others.  No one could like what I was tasting.  Then I told myself that I don't understand the complexity of uni.  But even if I read a treatise on it, I don't think I would like it.

What am I missing?

refer to another thread your started, asking somewhat the same question...Is Wilfrid Right? (shoot me now). :wacko:

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I'm tempted to say that uni must taste differently to others.  No one could like what I was tasting.  Then I told myself that I don't understand the complexity of uni.  But even if I read a treatise on it, I don't think I would like it.

What am I missing?

refer to another thread your started, asking somewhat the same question...Is Wilfrid Right? (shoot me now). :wacko:

Guilty. I was waiting for Plotnicki to explain that, in fact, uni are delicious under any reasonable objective standard, but too complex for me to understand; only so I could be defended by scads of others who'll say that my if my pallet doesn't like uni, then so be it because the complexity of flavors in uni doesn't make it any better than boring old steak.

(any takers?)

But I will try uni again when I go to a sushi bar of high-repute. I am glad to know that many of the uni lovers qualify their enjoyment with very high standars.

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i too don't really like it. the major problem with uni sushi for me is it's too big. you put this giant custardy thing in your mouth and it's just too much. (no jokes please!) and you can't really take two bites because it just falls apart.

the only time i've liked sea urchin was as a crudo tasting at esca. it came in the shell with a little lemon oil drizzled on top (i think). what i strongly remember is the tiny spoon you were given to eat it with. small bites i liked it, but i don't want a gigantic mouthful all at once.


"If it's me and your granny on bongos, then it's a Fall gig'' -- Mark E. Smith

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me no likey uni to

but I did have an interesting Japanese dish they called popcorn shrimp, they were the (ti-ti variety) but alive served with some seaweed n a small bowl, when you chewed on them they popped in your mouth

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Uni is difficult,because it is rarely consistent.I have eaten many samples from those little wooden boxes,and it ranges from the sublime to the blech,even within one box.If straight uni is a little much for you,try an aoili made with uni,or the southern Italian dish [served at Esca in N.Y.]of linguini with garlic and uni.

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Uni, one of my favorite foods! I have to admit though the first couple of times I had it, I thought it was awful and could barely swallow it. I found it buttery (similar to what someone else posted), of course this was at Japanese restaurants in Ohio, not exactly a seafood capital!! Now that I live in Japan I get can good uni anytime. But there is bad uni here, just avoid the cheap stuff. Keep trying it, you probably haven't found a good one yet.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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torakris, welcome to eGullet.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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To tell you the truth, I was surprised to see so many of you listed Uni as your favorite, since I remember I surprised my classmates by telling them sea urchin was edible. It was almost ten years ago, though.

FYI

There was no battleship nigiri before Kyuubei, one of the best reputed sushi shop in Tokyo, invented it to make Uni as sushi topping.

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