How to harvest Uni in BC (sea urchin roe)
Uni is my favourite nigri sushi, hands down. It MUST be very, very fresh and served in season, otherwise, it has a weird metallic tang to it that will turn you off. It should taste like the best savoury custard you’ve ever had. And you can harvest your own uni right here in BC.
Best harvest season – October to May
Types of Sea Urchins in BC – Red, green, purple: Red is the biggest
Where to find them? Intertidal zone to way to deep for you. Habitat is kelp beds (brown seaweeds) on our BC rocky coastlines in moderate to swift currents.
How to harvest uni? On a low winter tide I can just wade in and hand harvest them in 3ft of water. Diving: you just need a mask and snorkel in some spots as they can be found in the intertidal zone 15 feet of water. They move realllllly slow, so you just have to pick them up with gloves on to guard against the spines. Dive with a mesh bag or bucket with holes to hold your catch. Water quality is important, so for people living in BC, check the Department of Fisheries site for any sanitary closures. You don’t have to worry about red tide for urchins as they aren’t filter feeders. The roe is in male and female urchins.
Catch limits – Red have no size restriction, green 55 mm minimum, 12 per day maximum, must have a salt water fishing license, fishing season is open all year and limited to handpicking.
How to eat it? Crack open the shell with scissors and scoop out the bright orange roe. Rinse it in a bit of salted cold water and eat it right away, raw on good sushi rice is best. I’ve also had smoked uni soup (a rich orange zest, peanut flavour profile with big halibut chunks… it was hard to tell what else was in it) at Tojo’s restaurant in Vancouver which was amazing and gorgeous served in the shell. I will attempt to duplicate it and put up the recipe when I dial it in.
Ps. for those of you that want to just buy it fresh, here are my tips…
- Fisherman’s Wharf in Steveston, you can buy it off the docks sometimes here (in spring, I’m told)
- Sung Fish Co (1795 Pandora st, Vancouver) you can buy it here, prepared fresh on trays $16 for 110 gram of A grade Uni
- T&T Market has them live sometimes too