I love Steveston Village in Richmond. Not only is it a fine TV location for ‘Once Upon A Time’, it’s a better place to buy fresh and local seafood, year round.
I am a fan of uni (ウニ), or sea urchin, prepared in japanese and italian food. Usually I get mine in a beautiful presentation at a restaurant. There are a number of excellent restaurants in Vancouver that specialize in seafood or sashimi who regularly serve uni, like Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar and Miku Restaurant.
I came to the fishing boats in Steveston Village, to learn how to prepare this remarkable food myself. It can be daunting, if you’re squeemish (I’ve been known to be squeemish), but I want to learn.
The woman selling the live red sea urchins on the Steveston dock assured me how easy the are to prepare. They were sold 3 for $10. They are good sized, about softball or navel orange sized, and each urchin has about 5 pieces of roe inside. Three urchin are certainly enough to provide an appetizer for four people. (Uni is sold in some local stores here for about $15-$20 for 8 pieces.) The season for red sea urchin is October to May.
I buy 3. Here we go…. But first I need a bit of encouragement from an inspiring food-hero.
Ah Bourdain, I gotta tip my hat to you. (skip to 0:50)
The red sea urchin has some long spikes, but using a few towels, I manoeuvre one to turn it over so the mouth is on top. There are two common ways to open the urchin. One is to use kitchen shears starting at the mouth and cut the top off. I tried that, but the spikes were very long, and falling everywhere, and it got messy. The second way, as told by the boat captain, was to get a knife and give it a good tap along the top to crack the urchin in half. That worked really well for me. It’s not like an egg, its more like a melon. I could crack one side then the other, and then open it in half. Pretty easy, and not too messy.
Once opened, use a spoon pushing against the inside shell and gently scoop out the golden roe (actually gonads). Messy, other stuff comes with it, have a bowl of salt water ready to rinse any shell or stuff off the roe. Then transfer to a dish.
You can use the uni over rice, in sushi, or just on its own. I had some freshly cleaned, right off the plate. It has a fresh, creamy and sweetish flavour. Fantastic and according to David Suzuki sustainable.
Pretty easy. Enjoy!