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Uni: is it "egg"?

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(Note: this thread was split from a discussion on the LA board at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8923... Egg dishes are the Dish of the Month on LA and the debate surrounds whether Uni qualifies as "egg" -- The Chowhound Team)

Don't forget the uni is also "egg" :-)

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  1. Actually, it's not... ;-D>

    29 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      Uni is sea urchin roe which is sea urchin reproductive sac containing egg right?

      Per March DOM voting thread, non-poultry eggs are also game :-p

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/891788

      1. re: Porthos

        Gonads...not eggs/roe. http://www.sushifaq.com/sushi-sashimi...

        1. re: Servorg

          Gonads contain egg or sperm (milt). Eg. Ovary=gonad. Ovaries contain egg.

          1. re: Porthos

            I think Uni should count as "eggs" for purposes of the March DotM.

            We're looking for, in addition to egg dishes, egg-centric dishes so I think Uni would fit that latter criteria.

            Now, if one were to try and pass fried chicken off as "egg-centric" then no dice ... too far removed. But while chickens certainly do contain eggs, uni is solely a reproductive organ with a reproductive function -- i.e., to reproduce via eggs or egg sacks.

            Game on!

            1. re: ipsedixit

              It's basic biology. Sea urchin eggs come from female sea urchin gonads. It's unlikely the uni used at Mozza or Playground or any restaurant is all male gonad. That strip of uni, if female, contains a lot of sea urchin eggs.

              See below link to harvesting viable sea urchin egg simply by injecting potassium chloride:

              http://www.stanford.edu/group/Urchin/...

              Now let's get back to the chow :-)

              1. re: Porthos

                So top it with a quail egg and you have a really eggy dish!

            2. re: Porthos

              They produce eggs, no question. But this is one of those Schrodinger's cat deals. You may have eggs in your nads, and then again you may not. You'll need to open them up and see what you got. Then you'll know. But it's no question, you are eating gonads. Eggs? Maybe? Maybe not. Take your microscope with you and check. Let us know what you observe. Dr. P, at your gonads! ;-D>

              1. re: Servorg

                i nominate GONADS as the next LA dish of the month.

                1. re: Servorg

                  I'm happy with common sense and probability. I'll leave the microscopic 'nads inspection to you, as it seems to be your interest Senior Servorg, since you raised doubt in the first place ;-D>

                  1. re: Porthos

                    It's a fact that you are the first to quote chapter and verse when it comes to the authentic features of Neapolitan pizza, so I simply figured you would be interested in the facts surrounding uni and the interesting "fact" that one is tasting the egg making machinery for the most part, rather than the eggs. It's one of those "assuming" things...too many of them to count on the way to stubbing ones toe on the sidewalk of life.

                    1. re: Servorg

                      I understand your point and now reason for attempted clarification.

                      However the machinery itself contains eggs. Thus if you eat the machinery, you also eat the eggs. How do you think the machinery "manufactures" eggs? As I mentioned, biology 101.

                      Appreciate your clarification, though none was needed for this biophysics major ;-D>

                      1. re: Servorg

                        I think the confusion may be that you think gonads (female) "make" eggs as opposed to containing immature eggs waiting to be released.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          I think the confusion revolves around what you are eating/tasting in the consumption of the biological material of the gonads, which is mostly not the eggs themselves.

                          How many eggs (which are so tiny as to constitute a very, very small percentage of the overall make-up of what you are actually masticating and tasting) you are actually consuming is unknown. There may well be eggs in each bite, there may be none.

                          You have no way of knowing. But the taste of the uni comes from the much greater percentage of the actual egg making vessel, which is not the eggs of the urchin.

                          The misconception that you and others have is because what you are eating "looks" like roe of some kind. Appearances can be deceiving.

                          Here you go, P: http://seaurchinaquaculture.wordpress...

                          It turns out bitter tasting uni comes from the presence of the actual eggs and sperm (you ever know if you are eating male or female gonads) that are present in the uni. So, when you get that nice "sweet" uni taste that we crave so much, you are actually tasting the gonads without either eggs or sperm present. So it turns out you don't want the eggs, they are counter productive to the taste profile we like when consuming uni.

                          And that's why you aren't really eating eggs. You are eating (and tasting) the biological material of the egg making "machinery"

                          1. re: Servorg

                            Lets go back to my original statement which you tried to correct:

                            "Uni is sea urchin roe which is sea urchin reproductive sac containing egg right?"

                            Japanese word : common English translation : scientific description

                            No clarification was needed professor. I do appreciate the attempted compensation for the Neapolitan pizza "lectures" though ;-D>

                            The entire point of this thread drift being: uni contains eggs (female ones, 50% chance) which qualifies it for Dish of the Month. Especially in dishes like risotto and pasta where more than 1 is used. Cheers.

                            1. re: Porthos

                              "Uni is sea urchin roe which is sea urchin reproductive sac containing egg right?"

                              Maybe, but the good tasting ones don't...and your original statement was "Don't forget the uni is also "egg" - somehow you forgot that part... ;-D>
                              Cheers to you too

                              1. re: Servorg

                                And that's why egg was in parentheses. I try to be as accurate as possible. Gotta cover myself against the stringent ones :-D>

                                All female ones contain egg. Good tasting or not. Like I said the female sac/gonad contains immature eggs waiting to be released. See your link and chart where the roe content never drops to 0%.

                                Finally your assertion that the bitterness comes from the eggs itself is also incorrect according to your link. The link you provided shows peak harvest being Nov-Feb which contains a larger percentage of roe and the description of the "roe" being "not bitter" and peak marketability (note the article's use of "roe"). Contradicting what is written in the body of that link.

                                Bitterness is best correlated with just before and just after spawning. If the eggs made it bitter, it should be sweetest after spawning. But it isn't.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  I think this paragraph is what leads you to believe the "good tasting ones don't [contain egg]":
                                  ------------------------------------------
                                  2.1.2 Roe Replenishment

                                  The gonad becomes large and plump, usually significantly higher than 10% of the total weight of the animal. Even though the gonad is large it does not contain any eggs or sperm cells at this point in the cycle.
                                  ------------------------------------------
                                  This of course is incorrect and not possible from a biologic standpoint and they later temper the statement with:

                                  "The only market acceptable roe is therefore only from the Roe Replenishment stage, which does not contain a large portion of eggs/sperm."

                                  Note "ANY" has been modified.

                                  Here is a link of gamete (egg and sperm) production in sea urchin. If you look at research 3: note gamete production has peaked in Dec and is at a plateau from Jan to June. Meaning, there are plenty of mature sperm and eggs between Jan and June in those sea urchin gonads when they are at the market peak, "not bitter" period in your article.

                                  http://www.asnailsodyssey.com/LEARNAB...

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    2.2.2 Firmness

                                    Universally, all sea urchin markets demand firm, not watery, roe. Whether consuming sea urchin roe in uni sushi, a Greek axinosalata, an Italian frutti di mare, or in the giant portions of a Chilean erizos de mar ‘appetiser’ (which involves about half a kilo of sea urchin roe per person), the roe must be firm.

                                    The firmness of the roe (the gonad) depends very much on the presence of eggs/sperm. The only market acceptable roe is therefore only from the Roe Replenishment stage, which does not contain a large portion of eggs/sperm.

                                    2.2.3 Taste – Bitterness

                                    As with firmness, the roe must not be bitter. Again, it is the presence of eggs and sperm in the roe that cause the bitterness. (There are, of course, other nutritional factors for bitterness in sea urchin roe, but it the context of the annual reproductive cycle, the eggs/sperm are the main cause).

                                    In terms of bitterness, the only acceptable roe is that from the Roe Replenishment stage which does not contain a high proportion of eggs/sperm.

                                    2.2.4 In-Season

                                    The limitations on market quality roe from size, firmness and bitterness define the annual period in which the roe is acceptable to the market. As shown in Figure 2, the only time the roe is acceptable to the market is during the Roe Replenishment stage, after the roe has reached a minimum of 7% content, but before the Egg/Sperm Production Stage. This three-month period defines the Harvesting Stage, the time of year the sea urchins are “in-season”. In this example, it defines the harvesting period of the European Edible sea urchin in Ireland, November to February.

                                    The important point is that market-acceptable roe is only available from the wild during a certain time every year.

                                    The aim of commercial sea urchin aquaculture, therefore, is to produce this market-quality roe.

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      Your link is scientifically incorrect. Period.

                                      See below research paper which I also previously linked for you. Basically, by November (beginning of harvest) 50% of sea urchin studied "ooze" mature gamets (eggs and sperm). By December, scientists found that 100% of the sea urchin population oozed mature egg and sperm. Meaning, 100% of those female gonads contain eggs from Dec to June.

                                      This crosses both the bitter and non bitter stage in your link. Thus disproving that the presence of eggs and sperm make it "bitter" per your statement. Also thus proving female uni/gonads contain eggs and thus make it game for LA Dish of the Month.
                                      ===========================
                                      Research paper 3: note gamete production has peaked in Dec and is at a plateau from Dec to June. Meaning, there are plenty of mature sperm and eggs between Jan and June in those sea urchin gonads when they are at the market peak, "not bitter" period in your article.

                                      http://www.asnailsodyssey.com/LEARNAB...

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        Take it up with the author if you don't like his scientific conclusions (which address the taste of the uni as it comes from one of the larger producers of commercial supplies and markets sea urchin farming equipment and provides expert consultancy services for farming urchin uni). Even if you have half eggs and half sperm at the point you are consuming the uni, what total weight/percentage of the gonad you are consuming consists of only eggs? Something along the lines of eating the tobiko on the surface of a piece of sushi would be my estimate since the eggs are generally in the 100 to 150 micron range in size.

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          Your link is a blog.

                                          The link I provided is a paper published in a peer reviewed scientific journal by scientists using that gonad microscope you like. It's just fact. No drawn conclusions. :-D>

                                          "Even if you have half eggs and half sperm at the point you are consuming the uni, what total weight/percentage of the gonad you are consuming consists of only eggs?"

                                          On a cellular basis, the eggs in a uni gonad far outnumbers the "egg" in a chicken egg so weight/percentage probably exceeds chicken egg. All that yolk and egg white isn't "egg" if we want to talk about eggs and gonads and microns.

                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            And again, what percentage of what you are tasting/eating with regard to the urchin's gonad is egg/sperm and what percentage is egg/sperm making "machinery"? I say the taste you are eating and enjoying has little to nothing to do with the eggs/sperm. And the commercial sight which talks about the most desirable traits of the taste of urchin uni bears that out.

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              I say the taste you are eating and enjoying has little to nothing to do with the eggs/sperm.
                                              ===========================
                                              You actually said they were bitter.

                                              I don't know the percentage of egg/gonad in sea urchin. That's why I'm not commenting.

                                              Maybe you could find that out? Be sure to compare that to the percentage of actual "egg" in chicken egg in relation to the shell, yolk, and white. I bet it's lower than uni. So if chicken egg is "egg", then uni certainly is "egg".

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                " Be sure to compare that to the percentage of actual "egg" in chicken egg in relation to the shell, yolk, and white. I bet it's lower than uni."

                                                What? Do you eat the shell of a chicken egg? On purpose? I doubt it. When you crack the shell you extract 100% egg, which you eat (at least I do). No?

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  No. The egg, the nucleus is the about the same size as the egg, the nucleus of a sea urchin egg.

                                                  You are eating egg yolk, albumin, etc. The actual "egg" is also too small to taste.

                                                  But that's if you want to get technical and microscopic about things....which is what started all this FYI in the first place.

                                                  Cheers.

                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                    If you had a thing for eating chicken ovaries then we could have a discussion about how much of the ovaries were egg, and how much wasn't. And that is essentially the situation here. You aren't buying uni for the "eggs" you are buying it for the biologic material that makes up the gonads.

                                                    I'm sure if it were the actual "eggs" from the urchin that were the preferred part of the uni then some enterprising person would figure out a way to harvest only the eggs, and package them for consumption. The fact that hasn't happened tells me that you aren't looking to eat the eggs because that is not the tasty part of the urchin.

                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                      The situation here is you trying to argue about whether or not sea urchin roe/gonads contain eggs. You started off by saying they don't. The good ones don't. Sea urchin eggs taste bitter. None of which turned out to be true. Now you're trying to make an argument based on total weight/gonad volume or whatever.

                                                      If you want to get techinical about "egg" in sea urchin then you should understand that getting technical about chicken egg yields the same results. All that yolk and white that you're tasting isn't egg. It's nutrient for the embryo once it develops from the reproductive egg. Here is a link to the anatomy of a chicken egg:
                                                      ============================
                                                      9. Germinal disk (blastoderm) – a small, circular, white spot (2-3 mm across) on the surface of the yolk; it is where the sperm enters the egg.

                                                      http://www.imaginationstationtoledo.o...
                                                      ============================
                                                      Sea urchin gonads/roe contain plenty of eggs. A lot more eggs than a single chicken egg actually. Thus making it viable for Dish of the Month. Dish of the Month LA is eggs. Not specifically chicken eggs. Quoting the goal of DOM:

                                                      "The goal is to collectively try as many versions of Egg (or Egg-centric) dishes as possible during the month of March!"

                                                      Carbonara counts, bottarga on pasta counts, but uni gonad containing a whole mess of eggs doesn't?

                                                      Of course it does.

                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                        Bird eggs consist of a protective eggshell, albumen (egg white), and vitellus (egg yolk), contained within various thin membranes. Every chicken egg we consume (unless you are living on a farm where a rooster may be heading up the coop) is "unfertilized" and no embryo is going to eat the "egg" white or the "egg" yolk.

                                                        And again, just like tobiko the eggs you are getting are not why or what you like when you eat urchin roe. So for the sake of an "egg" thread I say uni is not eggs for the meaning of what the Dish of the Month discussion was about. Still say the same thing.

                                                        I'm done now. You can "egg" me on all you want but I'm gone. The yolks on you.

                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                          You plucked that from wikipedia which includes roe as egg. Click on roe and what do you get? Sea Urchin listed as an example.

                                                          The misunderstanding is that my definition of "egg" is a cell biology definition.

                                                          Your definition of "egg" is chicken egg and trying to extrapolate that anatomy as the basis of your arguments without understanding what a chicken egg actually is.

                                                          Try to go through the link I provided. It's pretty clear and not too scientific.