All you need to know about uni, the latest food craze in Singapore

[dropcap size=small]C[/dropcap]ertain connoisseur meals encourage cult-like devotion. There’s wagyu, the place the cows are fed a particular weight-reduction plan and purportedly given massages to Mozart’s music. Then, there’s sea urchin. In some elements of South Korea, haenyo (sea ladies) prepare from younger to free-dive in icy waters with nothing greater than a masks and knife to assemble the spiky orbs from the seabed.

The glistening golden cream – technically the animal’s gonads – encased inside is an acquired style, very similar to that of durian. However severe uni lovers will know that getting top of the range “custard” – delicate in flavour and texture – isn’t any straightforward feat. For starters, solely 18 of the world’s over 100 varieties are edible. The sweltering humidity of Singapore additionally turns the cream right into a bitter, watery mess. Freezing the items, then again, will strip them of flavour and physique, leaving them solely good for topping on chawanmushi or as a sauce.

That is why most uni listed below are from Japan – bafun and aka being the favourites – as Mediterranean varieties are more durable to maintain in tip-top situation as a result of longer transport period.

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“Flavour-wise, Japanese uni tends to be smoother and extra refined in flavour, which sits properly with native palates,” says Beppe De Vito, restaurateur of the Illido Group. Although his restaurant Braci serves fashionable Italian delicacies, De Vito makes use of largely Japanese sea urchins on his menu. “Sea urchins from Italy are usually saltier, and is logistically more difficult to herald.”

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Chef Han Li Guang from Restaurant Labyrinth prefers these from Canada for making sauces. “Recent Japanese uni ought to all the time be served uncooked or frivolously torched, however Canadian uni is sweet in sauces as a result of it’s barely sweeter and lacks the depth of Japanese sorts,” says Han.

Right here, we break down what makes uni so delectable.

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Professional ideas from Amanda Tan, co-founder of on-line Japanese grocer Zairyo.

How will you inform if uni is contemporary?

When it retains its form and isn’t mushy. Recent uni ought to be smooth and soften in your mouth, however nonetheless have a little bit of chunk.

What’s one of the best ways to retailer uni?

Within the fridge. For consumption as sashimi, it’s best to complete it in two days upon receipt. After which, chances are you’ll preserve it for as much as 5 days to cook dinner with pasta or use as chawanmushi topping.

Are reside sea urchins higher than boxed ones?

Not essentially. Stay sea urchins can have roe of various sizes. It’s vital to know how boxed uni comes about – reside sea urchins are opened, cleaned, then segmented into completely different grades. Those of higher grades make it right into a field. The remainder will go into stuff like neri uni (a paste) or just bought for cheaper.

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Bafun and Aka Uni are generally served at sushi eating places. Are there lesser-known sorts which can be simply nearly as good?

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Ensui uni. Cooks don’t use it in Singapore, however in Japan, it’s served at high-end locations. The uni is saved in a saltwater answer that mimics the salt ranges of the ocean the place it’s from, so that is one of the best ways to benefit from the pure sweetness of uni.

We learn how sea urchins from all over the world measure up towards their extra well-liked Japanese counterparts.


They’re bigger, and the color of the cream inside is a deeper orange. Canadian uni has a barely firmer texture, however lacks the briny flavour most in Singapore are acquainted with.


Sea urchins from the Mediterranean are bigger (suppose a tennis ball), and the kelp-rich sea provides rise to the much less widespread purple-shelled varieties. The uni is commonly firmer and saltier than that of Japanese varieties.


Of the edible sea urchin sorts, the insides of these from Chile are the brightest yellow – virtually a shade of lemon. Often called echinos, this South American selection lacks flavour and is commonly not thought-about sushi grade.


Because of its creamy consistency, sea urchins from the Philippines are nice for sauces as they don’t have a lot form and can’t be used for sashimi.


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In New Zealand, kina (the Kiwi time period for sea urchin) is often discovered on shallow water reefs. A dependable export marketplace for kina has but to be developed, although, as the standard is just not all the time constant, generally arising barely bitter or brown.

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A fast take a look at completely different grades of uni based mostly on their color and texture.

[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap] The very best grade of uni. Normally a vibrant gold with agency texture. Style-wise, that is often the sweetest.

[dropcap size=small]B[/dropcap] Second-grade uni tends to be muted yellow in color, and has a mushier texture. It’s also much less candy than A.

[dropcap size=small]C[/dropcap] Known as vana, these are the leftover bits that get damaged up in the course of the processing and dealing with of sea urchins.

We suss out a number of the greatest sea urchin dishes past the usual sushi.


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