The first time I tried uni, I was at a chic sushi restaurant in downtown Manhattan. Prior to that dinner, I would have considered myself somewhat of a sushi connoisseur; however, there was apparently something missing from my vast knowledge of Japanese cuisine.
Sitting across my friend in the dark interior, lit by warm lights and lined by white curtains, I ran my eyes up and down the menu, trying to decide what to get. We rambled on a long list of different appetizers, rolls, and pieces of sashimi, and then she said it:
“We must get uni.”
Must is a very strong word. If it was so essential to her sushi experience, I figured I should try it as well. Twenty minutes later out comes our uni upon which I skillfully snapped an Insta of before diving in (after all, that was one of my motives for getting it, in all honesty).
I find uni weirdly aesthetically pleasing. I’m not sure if it’s the unique, rich gold color or the way it sits on the rice as though it’s a foreign specimen from Mars, but Uni is gorgeous. The picture was taken, and it was finally time to try the Uni I had been waiting for.
I pinched a tiny amount off the top and dipped it in soy sauce. I hated it. The texture was like no fish I had ever had: it was somewhat creamy and briny. The taste was as though one scraped the bottom of the ocean floor, ground it up and then added some soy sauce. Yet I was determined to like it; everyone did, so there had to be some secret appeal. I sucked it up, drowned each morsel in soy sauce and ate it.
Fast forward six months later, and now I’m OBSESSED with uni. I crave uni regularly. So…what happened?
Here’s the deal: uni is the edible part of a sea urchin, the portion of the sea creature residing under the spiky exterior. Sea Urchins are found in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans; however, one might say that California has the best uni.
Uni is considered a delicacy, as is reflected in its price. Harvesting Uni is difficult, for the meat is delicate and can easily fall apart. However, once it is harvested, a single sea urchin usually produces about five “lobes.” Uni is then shipped worldwide, but the sooner Uni is consumed, the better it is. The taste can be described as somewhat sweet and briny. In my opinion, uni really is an acquired taste, so don’t give up if you hate it at first.
At the end of the day, here’s what I took away from my experience: sometimes eating for the ‘gram takes you places you would never have thought. Try something new, and if you don’t like it, try it again.