A sea urchin is one of those foods that you see and wonder what kind of crazy chef thought it might be a good thing to eat. Despite its prickly, unappetizing appearance, sea urchin, or “uni” as it is called in Japan, is a delicacy for foodies the world over. With a rich taste that encapsulates the very essence of the ocean, sea urchin can be challenging to prepare, but the reward is well worth the effort.
Locate a fishmonger or store that sells live sea urchin. If you have a Japanese or Korean market, you might be able to find them there. Select fresh specimens that have stiff, rigid spines and a closed opening on the underside. Store them in the refrigerator underneath a damp towel until you are ready to cook them.
Cut a round opening in the top of the sea urchin using small, pointed scissors. Scissors from a men’s grooming kit work well, or you can use regular kitchen shears if you cannot find anything else. Wash the scissors with hot, soapy water before using them on any food product.
Scoop out the “tongues” of the sea urchin with a small spoon. A grapefruit spoon works well. Rinse the pieces quickly under cold water, and place them in a bowl with the onion, sherry, lemon juice, cilantro and 1 T. olive oil. Allow to marinate for 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat the grill, and brush the bread with the rest of the olive oil. When the grill is heated to medium, toast the bread on both sides.
Add the sea urchin to the top of the slices and serve.
The lemon juice cures the sea urchin in the same way lime juice works on fish in a ceviche recipe. Sea urchin can also be served raw, straight out of the shell. You can even eat them minutes after catching them in the ocean, using your fingers to break open the shell.
You might want to wear gloves or use a towel when you remove the meat from the sea urchin. Otherwise, be careful of the spines when handling the animal.