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Dec 18, 2009 04:56 PM

Is sea urchin supposed to taste like poison?

I was at the Grand Central Oyster Bar a couple of years ago. They had advertised "sea urchin just in", so we're thinking it should be something special, plus at $2 each seemed dirt cheap. So we order two to try.
I really like all types of seafood, raw or cooked. I also see Bourdain eating urchin on the boat, just plucked from the sea and lovin it...
So the waitress brings the two urchins on the half shell. They're filled with what looks like muddy water and almost no substance. My buddy and I scoop a bit out with the small spoons.
"Where'd they drag this out from, the Hudson?" Looked like mud-puddle water, but tasted like mercury-infused peroxide. Egad.
OK, maybe I don't like NYC urchins (I'm joking and assume they're taken from good waters).

Fast forward to last week and I'm in a Greek restaurant with the wife. I see a couple of urchins on ice in their fish display. I want to give them another try and order one. Not quite as muddy, and more 'substance', but it tasted WORSE than I remembered.

Should it look like dirt and taste like poison? Is sea urchin an acquired taste, or am I trying the wrong type?

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  1. It should taste briny and slightly sweet

    2 Replies
    1. re: withaph

      You see, thats what I would think. Something oysterish, briny-wise. Textural maybe like fresh smelt roe, but thats definitely NOT what I got.

      As for the mercury-infused peroxide, I was just trying to figure out a comparison.

      The urchin wasn't spoiled per se, like rotting fish. Neither did it have the chlorine smell of spoiled shellfish.
      Actually it didn't have much odor at all, LIKE a fresh oyster.

      But the taste!
      Bitter and noxious, tasting like the fumes when torching steel.
      Mercury-infused peroxide was the best I could come up with...

      I'll keep my mind open and try until I find the right stuff!

      1. re: porker

        There's huge difference between really fresh sea urchin (i.e. was alive in until shucked a few seconds ago) and fresh sea urchin (shucked a couple of hours ago). It's one of those things where the quality can change very dramatically very quickly, and very small differences in freshness/sourcing can sometimes make a big difference in taste. Great ones aren't always easy to find, but if you like it, it can be worth the effort.

    2. I'm just wondering how you know what mercury-infused peroxide tastes like and how you lived to tell...

      1. Or maybe you just don't care for the flavor. I've had good sea urchin and it's just not a taste I enjoy, and I eat all kinds of seafood. 3rd time's the charm...or not.

        1. At its best, sea urchin starts with an intense hit of fresh brine, followed buttery sweetness, which gives way to nuttiness. At its worst, it tastes like what you describe.

          1. Sea urchin to me has a slightly sweet almost peanut-buttery flavor. Seriously good stuff. It shouldn't taste like any kind of peroxide -- sounds like these were off.

            The only things you should eat in a sea urchin are the orange-yellow "roe" (actually the gonads), nothing that is watery or muddy...

            1 Reply
            1. re: daveinmd

              I agree with your description of urchin. I also mentioned a custard type consistancy and taste that is slightly sweet. and it should have an orangish color to it.