Uni 101 with Soshinsen!Soshinsen
Sea Urchin is better known as Uni in the Japanese culinary world! Traditionally they were a commonplace in Japanese sushi bars but they have now found their way into fusion meals such as pastas! What exactly are they and why are priced at such a premium?
Bafun Uni 馬糞海胆 (a.k.a Horse Dung Uni) is classified as Aka Uni (Red) and originates from Short-spiked Sea Urchin. It’s believed to be the most populous variant. Our Bafun Uni is mainly sourced from the Sea of Japan (between Hokkaido and Russia), including the famed Rishiri Islands – well known for top grade Kombu as well as Uni with pronounced umami flavours! This is commonly available in both casual and higher end Japanese restaurants. With it’s bright orange colour profile, it’s hard to miss on Sushi counters!
On the other hand, Murasaki Uni 紫海胆 originates from Long-spiked Sea Urchin. It is a lot more seasonal, and is best during an extremely short period of time each year. Compared to its bright orange counter parts, it has yellow, dull orange and even brown hues. Flavour wise, it is often described to be rich and creamy!
Both Bafun and Murasaki Uni can be found in 2 arrangements: Bara (woven into a net, or criss-crossed) or Narabe (arranged systematically and neatly in rows). Sushi chefs and chefs that focus on food presentation typically prefer the latter given the ease of plating. Regardless of arrangement or type, Uni is extremely delicate. Once cracked open from its spiny casing, each Sea Urchin is individually cleaned and sorted. After which, individuals trays of Uni are put together by hand one tongue at a time!
At this juncture, you may be wondering what is Ensui Uni 塩水海胆? In a typical tray of Uni, preservatives are added to help the tongues hold it’s shape. In the case of Ensui Uni, once their thorny shells are cracked open – the orange lobes are cleaned before being returned to salt water of the same salinity as sea water. In doing so, salt acts as a natural preservative. What you get is a distinctive sweetness unlike Uni found arranged in trays! When ready to consume, remove the tray from the box and strain.
Texture / Look
Sea Urchin should always look firm, and “plump”, not flat or watery. Fresh Uni should ALWAYS be stored in the chiller (not the freezer). While all Uni comes with an expiration date, we highly recommend our customers to consume their tray within 2 to 3 days. As for Ensui Uni, within a day or 2.