“Uni Muki” — How to prepare a sea urchin

I’ve previously posted on ComingAnarchy about how to prepare a squid, at MFT on the morality of ikizukuri sashimi preparation, and now I thought it might be fun to repost a ComingAnarchy post on preparing a sea urchin for consumption. The following pictures were taken during a trip last summer to Rebun Island, the northernmost island in Japan after Hokkaido, where I had a chance to break open and prepare a sea urchin at a local fishery.

Sea urchins are a delicacy in Japan. Here is a tub of the spiny creatures waiting to be shipped across the country or otherwise served up for food.


The only edible part of the creature are its orange gonads. This requires completely destroying the creature, breaking through its spines and hard crusty shell. To split the creature open, three tools are required — a chisel with a lever, a dull scalpel, and twezers.


The rest of this gets messy… don’t continue to read if you have a thin skin (no pun intended).

First, the chisel is stabbed into the top of the urchin about half an inch.


Then, the level is pulled and the flat part of the chisel pushes open, splitting the sea urchin in half.


With bare hands, the sea urchin is then pulled apart, its spines still wriggling in desperation. I asked the lady supervising my experience if I would be hurt by grabbing the spines of this sea urchin which would likely do anything to stop its own destruction. The lady replied, “the only one who is going to be hurt here is that sea urchin.”


The dull scalpel is then used to scrape the inside of the sea urchin into a tray, trying to avoid the brown inards and aim for only the orange gonads.


Twezers are then used to remove the brown innards that are not the tender orange gonads. The gonads are then washed in salt water and served as is.


Here’s one popular tourist food — sea urchin served over rice, with wasabi on top (sale price approximately JPY2,000).


17 thoughts on ““Uni Muki” — How to prepare a sea urchin”

  1. on japanese tv they sometimes showed people eating uni right out of the freshly split shell. while i can’t stand for still-wriggling fish on my plate, that’s something i’d actually like to try.

    and that uni donburi looks amazing. did you have some? (say yes)

  2. “Where I come from, people huck ‘em at cars.”
    “Where I come from, they are apparently a free lunch.”
    “Uni tastes awful”

    Let’s keep it that way.
    Make Sea urchin Japanese(and those who are willing to assimilate)only.There’s no need to make them go after the foot steps of tuna sashimi.

  3. Aceface, agreed in spirit, although a few sidnotes:

    First, the Japanese are by no means the only people who eat sea urchins — from Chile to the Mediterranean, it is found in the cuisine of many seafaring peoples.

    Second, the biggest barrier to their consumption, and one reason they remain so expensive in Japan despite their worldwide abundance, is that the come in varying quality and despite outside appearance being similar, only a few taste really good. The only major imports of sea urchins to Japan come from Korea (same general waters) and the northwest Atlantic. Imports from many parts of the world — South and West Pacific, China, Indian Ocean, etc., have been turned away because of issues with either quality or species.

  4. Ditto Curzon: sea urchin is ubiquitous in Mediterranean cuisine.

    -glad to see Curzon still posting; I thought he moved to the Slave State/Debtors’ Prison/Las Vegas-in-a-Burkha Entity Known as Dubai.

  5. Due to my extreme ignorance of all things html, I keep getting weird artifacts in my posts. Let me try again:

    Glad to see Curzon still posting; I thought he’d moved to the Slave State cum Debtors’ Prison cum Las Vegas-in-a-Burkha Entity Known as Dubai.

  6. Had sea urchin at a Japanese restaurant in Northampton, MA. Was gross. Swore I’d never try it again unless it was as fresh as it looks in your pictures. Still wondering if uni can ever be good.

  7. The only uni I’ve had that I didn’t dislike was at Tsukiji, so it was ultra fresh. But even then I was not overly impressed.

  8. My wife is nuts for uni. I’m trying to diversify away from maguro, but I just can’t get into uni.

  9. I think Sea Urchins are being eatened in China and Korea.

    “The only uni I’ve had that I didn’t dislike was at Tsukiji, so it was ultra fresh. ”
    Yeah,they taste awful when they are no so fresh.
    Japanese-Canadian-Welsh writer C.W Nichol had written an essay of his experience of camping in sea side in British Columbia and eating Sea Urchins with his first-timer Canadian pal.His pal instantly fell in love with it.

  10. My wife, kids and I split them right at the ocean’s edge and dip them in seawater. When they’re so fresh their spines are still moving even after having been disemboweled, they are oh so sweet.

Comments are closed.