Video: Cleaning Sea Urchins (The Horror!)

Happy new year! What culinary challenge or goal will you embark on in 2010?

My challenge to you: Kill your own food at least once.


Recently, I acquired some from spiny, briny sea urchins at the fisherman’s wharf in Steveston, B.C. What a treat!

Uni (in Japanese) is one of my favourite nigiri sushi toppings and is a rightful delicacy around the world.

In Florence, Italy, I enjoyed it cooked simply with some tomato in a memorable pasta dish.


Sea urchins are harvested around the Mediterranean, Japan and New Zealand. Luckily for us, the Pacific Northwest’s cool waters also shelter these delicious critters.

The coral or “roe” is creamy and intensely oceany. It has a rich, round flavour that lingers in the palette.


October to May is red sea urchin season. The season for the green variety is shorter, only stretching from November to March. Green urchins’ coral is softer and more delicate in flavour and I was so pleased to get my hands on some *ouch!*


Sea Urchin Coral Before Rinsing

I am a firm believer that we need to look our food in the eyes. Making the choice to consume an animal after feeling it alive demonstrates consciousness and respect. This process causes us to consider where the animal is from and how it lived in order that we may enjoy it.

Initially, I was intimidated and a bit nervous when I brought these jewels home. Their little spines were still waving! I even braced for a squeak when I jabbed the tip of my kitchen shears into its mouth.

I took a deep breath, resisted all squeamishness and cleaned them all. The reward was a plateful of the freshest, most delectable Uni one can taste.


Atop Cucumber Slices with some Soy Sauce, Wasabi, or Mustard

Yes, it gets a bit messy but the results are so worthwhile. Make it your challenge to give it a try this year!

Here’s How:

Curious: Have you killed your own food before?

* Sea urchins can stay alive in the fridge for several days in an uncovered bowl.

  • The Little Teochew

    You brave girl! That’s why you have uni and I don’t. Sniff. Taking this chance to wish you a wonderful 2010 filled with lots of joy and laughter … and good eats too!


  • admin

    @TLT Happy new year, my love! Thanks for taking the time to write. Kill your own food, that’s a challenge :)

  • Jason Sandeman

    Good on you! I am glad that you had a chance to go through that excercise, as I think you will now appreciate better what you are serving.
    As a chef, I have to kill all sorts of things routinely, from lobster, urchins, shrimp, fish and the like. I agree it is not exactly fun, but one gets a sense of the level of respect you can get from being connected to your food. It is far easier to get the uni from a Japanese supplier frozen. It is also easy to see that abused, discarded, allowed to go rotten etc.

  • admin

    @Jason Thanks! In the home kitchen, it can be a bit more messy and daunting but I’m all about connecting with my food so I totally agree with you!

  • French Cooking for Dummies

    I always feel terrible when I have to kill my own food, but that’s what you get for loving seafood ;-) For me, the worst ones to kill are crab, lobster etc. Looks like they know when you’re going to plunge them into boiling water!
    I wish you a fabulous 2010, happy new year Mel!

  • admin

    @Veronique: I’m just glad they don’t have voices! Happy new year, my dear!

  • Christine @ Fresh Local and Best

    I have killed my own shell fish – a wide range, but not sea urchin. Maybe this will be the year I do it.

  • codfish

    I just killed my first uni, too! Poor girl, you should’ve worn kitchen gloves!

  • pierre

    Hello Mel
    I wish you the best success for the new Gourmetfury and a happy new year
    Pierre te french foodie in paris

  • admin

    @Pierre @Eric thank you so much! Happy new year boys!

  • PT

    mmmm… now if only live sea urchins would make its way to me down here in texas…

  • admin

    @ Pete No can do. Guess Texas will have to make it to Sea Urchins.

  • Leela@SheSimmers

    Have I killed my food? I gave a few lobsters a “hot bath.” Does that count? Other than that, it’s just one chicken.
    Some friends and I, while camping in a remote area (no electricity or running water) in the north of Thailand, bought a live chicken from a hilltribal family as we ran out of canned food. As we chopped its head off, blood sprayed in every direction and we all freaked out and let go of the chicken. The headless chicken continued to run around the kitchen for almost a full minute and we had to chase after it. It only dropped dead after one of us whacked it with a rubber sandal.

    I didn’t eat chicken for a looooong time after that.

  • admin

    @ Leela: girl you’re awesome! I hear chicken necks should be wrung, not chopped or something like that would happen. Hahaha One day girly, we’re gonna rip one of our cities apart together. Love you!

  • Nate @ House of Annie

    A long time ago, my brother-in-law went diving for abalone, and dropped off a couple of uni he had caught on our doorstep. (why he didn’t leave an abalone as well is beyond me) Anyway, they were still alive, but we cut them open, cleaned them out, and scooped out the gonads. They tasted really fresh, but the distaste of having to kill the animal first kinda took away the enjoyment of the food.

    Now I just let the sushi chef put it on my rice.

  • admin

    @ Nate while I realize that this process may not be desirable or enjoyable, it is my challenge for everyone that eats animals to kill their own food this year. You may disagree but I wrote, “Making the choice to consume an animal after feeling it alive demonstrates consciousness and respect. This process causes us to consider where the animal is from and how it lived in order that we may enjoy it.”

  • Brad

    Hey Miss Fury,

    Thanks for the tip- we eat uni pretty frequently in Tokyo, but I’ve never actually thought about doing it myself because of the freshness and nice packaging of the uni at the store down the street. Since I rarely cook, the last time I really felt that “connection” to an animal was in my alone time with the Thanksgiving turkey. Just holding that bird made me far more grateful for what we would be eating several hours later. Plus, I may or may not have given him a little massage in the sink before putting him in the oven…

    Maybe I’ll do an uni-pasta and guest post on Tokyo Terrace (my wife’s blog) sometime soon.

    Reminds me of one of Rachael’s old posts:

    Keep up the good work- we love it.

  • Jessie

    you are very brave! I do not think I can go through that process alone. But it does mean that the food is a lot fresher and tastier in the long run.

  • Rose

    You rock! Although I’m not a hunter or anything, I’m a huge fan of being able/willing/experiencing killing your own food. You HAVE to know where it comes from and how it gets from alive to plated to fully value the food! Besides, bonus points on the uni – YUM!

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  • katja

    We catch fish and gather oysters, crabs and clams when in season. Love the Pacific NW for that!

  • rodrigo

    brave one!! stick your hand inside the uni is terrible! is like touching the brains of a small animal….. and the dark water inside, and the insect some people eat…


  • admin

    Haha Oh Rodrigo you made me laugh out loud haha :) Horrible, but LOVE THEM TOO!!

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  • ccrider

    thanks for the video i found some urchin of the green variety yesterday snorkeling and i’ve eaten them just needed to know how to clean them i also speared 4 flounder and cleaned those as well. i have a challenge for you: gather and catch your own food and kill it, at least once. it brings you even closer to reality of where your food comes from and not only that it doesn’t get any fresher!! thanks again

  • Ellis

    Thank you for the video! Very informative and helpful for our upcoming uni party. Yay!

  • Melody Fury

    Ellis- Uni party? how much more fun can you have??