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Why do people like sea urchin?

I'm trying to like sea urchin but can't bear how it looks, tastes, and feels in my mouth. Why is it so popular?

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  1. Another question: if you can't bear anything about it, why keep trying? Never had it, not even curious about it.

    1. Personally I like it for it's uniqueness in the taste aspect, I can't off the top of my head think of anything I could say "Oh, this tastes like Uni", and I like the funky, briney taste, the texture caught me off guard the first time I tried it but not after, the appearence is absolutely no big deal to me. IMO I think uni is a love it or hate it kind of thing.

      1. Try it with bacon. You'll love it.

        1. Because of how it looks, tastes, and feels in my mouth!

          I would not describe sea urchin as 'popular', it seems like a love it or hate it thing, with a large 'too squeamish to even try' sector.

          1. i'm normally turned off by "slimey", but i this case, while the surface may feel slimy, there is actually a firmness to the uni that i really enjoy. in fact, one of my favorite preps is uni with raw egg, which i guess is like doubly slimey.

            what i love is the unique taste to it and the overtones of sweet and briny. hard to describe, but its probably my favorite sushi item.

            one other thing, a lot of times the uni served at sushi places is utter crap. its why i tend not to get it unless i know the place is getting the good stuff. but when its not fresh or low quality, it can have a funky and metallic taste to it that i really dislike and can entirely ruin it for you.

            1 Reply
            1. re: FattyDumplin

              You mention of raw egg brings to mind that in a discussion like this it might be useful to separate out the whole "exotic" factor. Even with a humble and familiar item like an egg, some people like to eat raw eggs while plenty of others, as the OP put it with respect to sea urchin, "can't bear how it looks, tastes, and feels." Some people think dill pickles are vile. I just don't understand the quest to overcome an aversion to something simply because one has read that some other people like it.

            2. The first time I tried uni it was crap quality. Did not like anything about it. Tried it again a year later and had good quality uni, made a world of difference. It is now one of my favorite sushi items. It is very unique, briny, rich, and delicious I think.

              3 Replies
              1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                Actually, that was the same experience I had with sashimi and sushi back in the '70s. I had read about this new and exciting Japanese cuisine and wanted to try it. The quality was not good. Second time was a charm, though.

                1. re: LorenzoGA

                  I think this is why a lot of people don't like something. They had it of a terrible quality and decided that was all there was and moved on. I've done it at least 3-4 times and regretted it horribly once I found a high quality version of the item. I keep trying stuff even if the first 1, 2, or 5 experiences were bad. It has definitely been to my advantage to do so. One thing I just can't seem to enjoy is tamales. I keep trying them and they just never seem to deliver...the quest continues.

                  1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                    i am very much a textural eater, so while i can't gag down boiled liver i will swoon over pate. some people may be more like that than they realize. sea urchin, like oysters, are textural first. the flavors all come after the initial mouthfeel.

              2. That's a bit of a bizarre way to ask a question -
                I like the way it looks, tastes and the texture - so I like it....

                You don't like any aspect of it, so you don't like it.

                If you really want to know - here's why I like it...

                I love the rich flavor - the taste of the sea and a little bit of funky bitterness - it goes great with rice/seaweed and soy- and it also makes the creamiest yummiest pasta dishes- and the color is beautiful - and when eaten straight out of the shell it's an adventure.

                1. Never liked it really until I had it fresh from urchin itself...amazing..

                  1. I enjoy the way it tastes and feels in my mouth. Briney, a little perfume-y. Yum.

                    1. You might as well ask "why do people like:

                      Stinky Cheeses
                      Head cheese

                      Answer: Because they like it. (Is a rational reason really necessary?)

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: ferret

                        Why do people ask, or care, why other people like something they don't? Seems narcissistic to me. Different strokes, period!

                        1. re: greygarious

                          It isn't "narcissistic," as that means self-absorbed. A narcissist doesn't care much about what others like.

                          1. re: GH1618

                            I know the clinical definition. IMO, one has to be pretty self-absorbed to think one's personal preferences are more valid than those held by others.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              It's a rather strong criticism for what was really a harmless, if perhaps pointless, question. I see similar questions posted here from time to time.

                              1. re: GH1618

                                Yes, but Chowhound wouldn't really be Chowhound without this kind of OP question. I see them and think 'this is going to get interesting'.

                                1. re: GH1618

                                  Often times, it's not the question that's interesting but the comments and responses are more interesting. There are a lot of things to be learned too...

                              2. re: GH1618

                                A narcissist doesn't care about others, period. (But they're good at pretending to see if you'll be useful.)

                          2. i could eat it EVERYDAY. once had it napped with house-made lardo and thought it was heaven in my mouth.

                            however, i hate butternut squash. why do people like it? ;(

                            1. I'll agree the appearance isn't all that appetising, but that creamy-firm texture that melts in your mouth, the rich, slightly funky umani heavy flavour. Mmmm.

                              One of my fondest food memories from travelling is the fish market in Santiago, Chile, where you could order a *bowl* of fresh uni quite cheaply.

                              1. Do you mean the roe (uni)? I don't know. I like almost everything in a sushi bar, but not that.

                                1. I like it. Add a small amount to some olive oil. Great for dipping your bread.

                                    1. re: Pata_Negra

                                      Hollah if you ever need a travel partner :-)

                                    2. used to frequent a sushi bar in Vancouver and became fast friends with owner. since I recommended it to everyone I knew, he got business that way plus he read reviews I'd written praising it.

                                      when I'd go for lunch he'd surprise me with things I'd never had nor particularly wanted. one day the sushi looked odd and he said this kind was sea urchin. ick was my thought. tasting it to not be rude as he stood over me, it was delicious, very tasty and surprisingly not odd mouth feel. a saltiness I really liked.

                                      I found it very enjoyable.

                                      1. Why does anybody like anything? They just do.

                                        I'm in the middle on uni -- I'll eat it if it's there, but I don't go out of my way for it.

                                        1. I absolutely LOVE it! Our local sushi place gets a shipment in every Thursday. I'm on it! The texture is fine with me and the taste - yum!

                                          1. To me, it tastes like lobster tomalley (which I love), but more subtle. Like foie gras compared to chopped liver.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: sbp

                                              Okay, this is interesting to me... I tried uni once and...well, just.didn't.like.it
                                              not one bit
                                              (I love most things, except uni and lima beans)
                                              I love every bit of the tomalley inside of a lobster
                                              I may have to give uni a try again
                                              (wondering if as others have said, I didn't have a very fresh piece)

                                            2. like many things being sold it starts with a poor economy. People can always find carbs in fruits and veggies but protein is the hard part. They eat whatever protein they can find and sea urchin thrives in very, very shallow water. Easy to find and harvest and gives the protein humans require.
                                              Chefs, looking for a new gig, start selling sea urchin as a special product, Ohhh so great! It is all marketing and people believing sea urchin tastes great. It is just another form of protein and really not that special.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: genoO

                                                "really not that special" would be meat from battery-cage chickens or cafo cattle.

                                                urchin has been consumed for millenia. it's hand-harvested and its lush velvety texture melts in the mouth with a burst of the ocean and all its saline and mineral glory.

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  and it's just difficult enough to obtain (especially in recent centuries) and prepare that it's not "just another protein" to a significant number of people.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    not to mention its very short shelf-life once shelled.

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      I could take you to one cove I know of where sea urchins are by the thousands. You can't even put a toe in the water.
                                                      I suppose they are like other foods that must come a specific region, at a specific time of year and harvested by a local who's family has 5 generations of collection this specific food.

                                                      1. re: genoO

                                                        many millions of people have never even the ocean.

                                                2. Because chefs are pimping them as exotic luxury items and some people will say they like things just because they're trendy. Is this what you want to hear? I'm sure it's true for many people. Others have been eating sea urchin for a long time and genuinely like them. Over 20 years ago (when I've as in my early 20s), my dad introduced me to uni sushi and I've been ordering them ever since. Over 6 years ago, I saw Ripert prepare a sea urchin pasta with caviar for Bourdain and I had to try it for myself - and fell in love with sea urchin pasta (when prepared properly).

                                                  The popularity will fade with time - who knows what's next. I keep hoping stinky tofu will become all the rage.

                                                  1. I love uni . I would not try so hard to cultivate a taste for something I didn't like, especially an expensive item that is easy to work around.

                                                    1. What percentage of society do you believe likes sea urchin that leads you to believe it is "so popular"? You mean because a relatively few North Americans who are what we might call foodies have posted on their blogs that they like it? That hardly makes it "so popular." If some foodies and chefs start some buzz about pig anus, are you going to "try to like" that, too?

                                                      17 Replies
                                                      1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                        I'm not sure if I've ever ate a pig's butthole - does anyone?

                                                        1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                          I eat chicken gizzard...why not pig's butthole...as long as it's clean. =)

                                                          1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                            I've seen them packaged in an Asian market but do not wish to know the details. Then there's the notorious classic Excremental Encounter thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2614...

                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                              I have a photo somewhere of a box sitting in a frozen food section of an Asian grocery, reading "pork anus." Although I went for the shock value in my post above, it's not that farfetched. If some foodie or chef starts a buzz about something, no matter that it's something most Westerners have an aversion to, we will "want to like it."

                                                              1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                Not food related so it will probably get pulled BUT...

                                                                That isn't just a food culture phenomenon

                                                                1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                  I'm guilty of this (with food). I mean, shit, we are all looking for new foods all the time (well, any true food lovers), so when one person finds something, we all want to try it.
                                                                  Guess not all trendy shit is bad, especially if it exposes us to something new.

                                                                  Now cronuts and all that shit, different story. That shit is whack. I mean it looks good, but I'd never wait more than 3-4 minutes in line for one.

                                                                  1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                                    Pork anus = trendy shit?

                                                                    Very likely outcome

                                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                                      Just gotta brand them... Pork Buns!

                                                                    2. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                      Correction: the pic actually says "pork rectums."

                                                                  2. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                    Probably have if you have ever eaten a hot dog.

                                                                    1. re: emglow101

                                                                      I'm sure I've eaten unidentified pork anus. My question is what dish is made exclusively out of pig bunghole? I'm not aware of any such dish.

                                                                    2. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                      Dunno, but the whole world encases sausages in pig or sheep intestines. Well, except for most American sausages, which are now encased in some kind of corporate chemical gelatin skin.

                                                                      1. re: emu48

                                                                        Not if you pay attention to what you're buying.

                                                                        1. re: emu48

                                                                          Collagen. "Corporate chemical gelatin"?

                                                                          1. re: emu48

                                                                            It's amazing what people think they know.

                                                                          2. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                            (deleted a redundant post...didn't read the thread carefully enough! sorry...)

                                                                        2. Foie gras and uni are two of my favorite foods in the World. So buttery, rich....briny, smooth...yumm...

                                                                          1. I used to hate it, but then for some reason just a couple of years ago I forgot that I hated it. Something like that.

                                                                            At that time, I bought soy sauce from Narita Airport (Tokyo) and had some uni from a restaurant in New York, and the two had a blast.

                                                                            Then, a brief trip to Sicily introduced me to uni and pasta, and it has since become a regular take-out item (at least in gunkan form, it's more palatable with soy sauce than by its lonesome).


                                                                            1. Too Bad, but that leaves more for us uni lovers. Eating an entire box of uni at an izakaya in Tokyo last week.

                                                                              1. Where did you try it? Sea urchin needs to be impeccably fresh.

                                                                                1. Because it's slimey and orangey-brown. Most of all, because the part you actually eat is the critter's gonads.

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: emu48

                                                                                    if what you had was slimy, it was not fresh.

                                                                                    1. re: emu48

                                                                                      The highest grade uni is an attractive shade of bright yellow, almost mustard-y yellow and holds its shape well. "Orangey-brown" uni that is "slimey" or mushy is an accurate description of low grade uni. It generally tastes just fine, but it doesn't look or feel as nice as higher grade uni.

                                                                                      1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                                        There are many types of sea urchin, with different coloring, even orangy-brown. Even the high-grade stuff. I just had some from SW Japan.

                                                                                        1. re: E Eto

                                                                                          Now that I think about it, that makes sense. I believe I have been a bit misled by marketing.

                                                                                          If emu48 is turned off by the "orangey-brown" color and "slimey" texture of whatever type he tried, I recommend he try a different type. I have really enjoyed the firm, yellow uni that we get from Southern California waters--not sure what the species of urchin is. I'm sure I am not immune to the biasing effect of color and texture on my palate. Flavor isn't the whole experience. (If it were, more people would love durian!)

                                                                                    2. Sea Urchin would not be as expensive and as popular if it didn't taste so amazingly delicious and didn't have such a unique flavor not found anywhere else.

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                        I think the same thing about breakfast sausage.

                                                                                            1. re: genoO

                                                                                              American-style breakfast sausage is a bit more expensive in Japan than in the U.S., but not unreasonably so.

                                                                                      2. See a lot of talk about pork rectums and people bent out of shape because uni is a trendy ingredient. But people have been eating sea urchin roe for a long time and enjoying the hell out of it. It's not for everybody, but some people don't like ice cream.

                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: steamer

                                                                                          I couldn't have said it better.
                                                                                          Tastes and preferences vary...that's what makes the world go 'round!

                                                                                          1. re: steamer

                                                                                            The bigger question is why some people want to "learn to like" things they at least initially find they don't care for, simply because they have repeatedly heard that other people like them. I encourage people to try new things, but if they don't care for them, please, just move on rather than start endless discussions that come down to nothing more than individual tastes.

                                                                                            1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                                              It's all personal taste, true, but I remember when I first ate cilantro.Thought it was the most hideous thing I had ever eaten. Don't know why but I kept at it and now it is a favorite taste. Go figure.

                                                                                              1. re: steamer

                                                                                                Same for me with oysters. Took me over a decade. Love 'em now.

                                                                                                1. re: steamer

                                                                                                  But did you start a discussion on an Internet forum asking people to try explaining to you why other people enjoy cilantro? Of course not. There is only one answer, and that's the one you said: "It's all personal taste."

                                                                                                2. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                                                  Bad advice IMO. A huge reason people don't like things is because they try it and it is either a poor quality, not fresh, or not prepared properly. I keep trying things, and it has always benefited me (well I'm still trying to find a good tamale....)

                                                                                                  1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                                                    That assumes that your palate is developed. At 20 I didn't like much of anything that was challenging or that just might have taken more openmindedness or time on my part to appreciate: Cognac, dry wine, Sinatra, blue cheeses, Venice... So returning to things over time and keeping an open mind never hurts. I love all of them now.

                                                                                                3. My wife thinks that Uni is "like eating a mouthful of ocean." Uni also happens to be my favorite bite of food. I suppose it comes down to a few things:
                                                                                                  *i love, and have always loved, the sea-faring flavor. Anchovies, sardines, lox, seafood of all varieties cooked or raw. I think it literally needs to start with a palate trending in that direction. Uni really is the epitome of 'sea'food, so on the gradient of consumption, I think the foundation already needs to be laid to enjoy.
                                                                                                  *I also love the subtle 'pop' when your teeth first pierce the Uni. Very texturally uplifting - dare I say exciting? - and the resulting gooey, yolky mouthfeel is sensual. Some people do not have the same affinity for what they deem 'slime,' and thusly, that can be a deal-breaker.
                                                                                                  *Richness. I put Uni in the same category as foie gras or wagyu in the sense that it is a powerful burst of heavy umami flavor. For me, I strive for this with each bite, and very few foods attain the level of rounded depth that Uni provides.

                                                                                                  So does it taste like "a mouthful of ocean?" Sure, I can see that. But it's also very salacious, endearing and resonant.

                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: MagnoliaGardens

                                                                                                      Okay, you've convinced ME to give it another try
                                                                                                      (every flavor and texture you describe is something which I adore!)

                                                                                                      1. re: MagnoliaGardens

                                                                                                        Ever had a mouthful of ocean? I have. Makes you cough and want to spit up. Did puke once after swallowing a mouthful of ocean after inhaling too soon upon surfacing while free diving going after sea urchins and conch. Check it out. Next time you go to the beach, fill your mouth with the ocean. Not good. Perhaps I'm being to literal (or perhaps littoral?) but uni is so much better than that.

                                                                                                        Its more like the taste manifestation of an offshore sea breeze with that tangy salty smell and coolness that refreshes you on a hot sunny day.

                                                                                                        1. re: MagnoliaGardens

                                                                                                          I've heard the same thing said of oysters: "tastes like the sea." I think it's fair to put oysters and uni in the same category, and I would venture to guess that if someone likes one they also like the other.

                                                                                                        2. Oh wow... so many replies.

                                                                                                          I tried sea urchin again, this time on buttered toast with salmon roe and chives at a nice restaurant. I liked it.

                                                                                                          1. If sex were food it would taste like uni. That's why I like it. It's edible lady parts.

                                                                                                            I almost threw up the first time I tried it...now I can't get enough!

                                                                                                            15 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                              well, black truffles remind me of my bf... (tmi)

                                                                                                              1. re: MarieLuncheonette

                                                                                                                Truffles also remind me of sex...truffles and uni zomg.

                                                                                                                1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                  uni, shaved truffle, raw quail egg.

                                                                                                                  1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                    somehow I think I am getting a rather twisted picture of sex on here... and it is either going to be very disappointing or I i am going to be like Remy from Ratatouille with those fire works exploding in his head one day

                                                                                                                    1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                      Don't put too many hopes on the first time seeing fireworks, is my advice.

                                                                                                                        1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                          Yeah, that's a good way of putting it :-)

                                                                                                                      1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                        That's exactly how it was for me the second time I had it! Mouthgasm galore.

                                                                                                                      2. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                        I once had uni on truffled brioche. It was orgasmic.

                                                                                                                      3. re: MarieLuncheonette

                                                                                                                        Well then, I'll have to taste your bf :)

                                                                                                                        But seriously, I think black truffles have the same pheromone androstenone as adult human males.

                                                                                                                      4. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                        "I almost threw up the first time I tried it...now I can't get enough!"

                                                                                                                        To which part of your post does the "it" refer?

                                                                                                                            1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                                                                              So was I! I was hoping someone would pick that up. :)

                                                                                                                      5. Only speaking for myself I was instructed early in my sushi eating by a sushi chef that Uni is "advanced" sushi. Told me I wouldn't like it. And I didn't, at all. But I swore to figure it out. So I tried it off and on for decade w/ no success. Then I had a discussion w/ the proprietor at one sushi bar who described Uni as "liver-ice cream of the sea". With that described flavor profile in my mind I slowly began to appreciate Uni. Today I always order Uni; along w/ amberjack, and saba.

                                                                                                                        1. I love it! I remember the first time I had it and it was like lovely briny butter in my mouth...
                                                                                                                          for my birthday the chef at "work" made me panacotta with it that was delightful rich and creammmmmy
                                                                                                                          I have had it many ways and it is always fabulous.

                                                                                                                          1. I was 10 and went oystering with my father and older brothers in FLA in the late 60's. I was in waist deep with a burlap sack and holding a screwdriver the wrong way to break off any rocks. I 'accidentally' broke one open, asking dad what do I do with it now. He said eat it. My brother fixed oyster chowder that night at the RV park. I think it might have been oysters, milk, minced onion, S/P. Certainly nothing my mom fixed the first ten years of my life would have compelled me to eat a raw oyster, but out there with my dad....Some people observe life, some people participate.
                                                                                                                            Down In Abaco, where I've harvested my own sea urchins, I was trying to get my brother-in-law to eat a stupid conch fritter. He wouldn't have anything to do with it. I started sounding like so many Moms; How do you know if you don't like it if you don't try it ? He tersely responded 'I'd rather not'. I was stunned. It's that simple. Really. Like, I'd rather not try a pigs rectum. But I(my dad)opened a door when I was 10 years old, have have been opening 'most' doors since. But really..pigs anus ? Stuffed with Cocks Combs and Larks Tongues maybe.

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: 3MTA3

                                                                                                                              some people miss out on life..
                                                                                                                              I got my five year old cousin to try her first oyster by telling her it was mermaid food and it was what they ate while they sat on the rocks and ate while their hair blew in the wind... Her mother looked at me like "No way is that going to work" But I put it in her hand and took on in mine an we tossed our hair like mermaids and slurped them down... and she laughed like crazy and said " again again"