Uni (oo-nee) is the Japanese name for the edible part of the Sea Urchin. While colloquially referred to as the roe (eggs), uni is actually the animal’s gonads (which produce the milt or roe). Uni ranges in color from rich gold to light yellow, and has a creamy consistency that some love and is off-putting to others. It is nevertheless one sushi item that is in incredible demand around the world, which is reflected in its price.
Sea Urchins are a rare treat for those who acquire a taste. Uni sushi has a light, sweet, and somewhat briny flavor and is is usually enjoyed as nigiri sushi or sashimi. Uni is also sometimes served with a raw quail egg.
It is harvested throughout the world, however the west coast of the U.S. has in recent years become one of the largest sources, and much of the harvest finds its way overseas to eager Asian customers. Each sea urchin contains five ‘lobes’ and the harvesting of the uni is a very delicate process as the meat easily falls apart. Uni is a somewhat seasonal item and is at its best when served from late fall through the winter, with December considered the best month by Japanese standards.