As a Food Science major, I go out of my way to seek out unique eating experiences. While many of my peers intend to use their degree to get involved in nutrition, I’m interested in product development. I want to create new and interesting foods in order to improve the collective eating experience.

And what better way to gain inspiration for a fun new product than by sampling exotic food? A recent food trend that has caught my attention is sea urchin, frequently referred to by its Japanese name “uni.”

sea urchin

Photo courtesy of @freezemomentz on Instagram

Sea urchin has become quite popular amongst foodies; strange though it may seem, the golden gonads of these spiny creatures are thought of as a delicacy in the culinary world. So naturally, when given the opportunity, I couldn’t say no to sampling fresh uni at the San Diego Farmer’s Market. The uni I purchased was still alive when the the vendor plucked it out of its ice bath and cracked it open.

He cleaned out any pieces of forgotten kelp before handing it to me on a paper plate, telling me to “enjoy,” with the look of a mother showing off her newborn baby. I had been warned by a nearby customer it would “taste like the sea.” Picturesque though that may sound, as anyone who’s ever swallowed a mouthful of briny seawater during a day at the beach can attest, the taste of the ocean isn’t exactly the kind of flavor one would actively seek out.

This made me nervous to say the least, but having already given up $10 for this so-called treat, I had no choice but to venture on, plunging my fork into the squishy reproductive tissue.

sea urchin

Photo by Haley Palmer

I doubt you’ll be shocked to find out sea urchin did, in fact, taste like the ocean it was caught in. And it had the always sought-after soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Trying uni made me feel like Andrew Zimmern on the hit Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods. It was such an interesting tasting experience, I recommend sampling it for yourself. Sea urchin tastes best fresh, and can be found in major cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Though I can see how such a unique creature has become beloved by many an adventurous eater, I think the next time I want to “taste the sea,” I’ll just go down to the beach.