I have always been blessed with the opportunity to experience unique culinary experiences. Eating and dining has always been an integral part of my family. My love for food is so deeply rooted in memories I have of week night family meals or elaborte dinner parties my family would throw. My mom would always challenge her self to create elevated meals, the kitchen was a sancutary, its where the magic happened. Even at a young age I had a mature palette. My dad would always brag that at 5 I could eat a whole T-Bone steak. I never shyed away from eating anything that was put in front of me. Trying something new was always exciting. We travelled extensively growing up which exposed me to a wide array of multicultural cuisine. We were always more concerned with where we were going to eat than seeing any of the tourist attractions. We would do our research on the best restaurants and would plan our days round eating.
My sister moved to California last year, and I was doing some research for my mom who is visiting her. We were watching an episode of The Layover Anthony Bourdain in San Fransico taking notes on where to eat when she is there. One place that he visits while in San Fran is Swan Oyster Depot. One of the dishes he dines on is sea urchin, which is remarkably something I have never tried, a rare occurance. I was intrigued and determined to pursue this culinary endevour. I went to the St. Lawrence Market to discuss with a fish monger, luckily he was receiving a shipment of some east coast urchins on Thursday. He offered to have them cleaned and ready for me, but I wanted tackle the obstacle of extracting the roe.
I thought maybe I will do something creative, make a mousse or a custard, however I reconsidered realizing how important it would be to try it in its natural state without being manipulated. I was expecting black spikey urchins that you often see and was surprised to see them green and coated with smaller concentrated spikes. I used a dish towel to hold them and cut around the bottom "mouth" of the urchin wanting to preserve the shell for presentation. I opened the first and could immediately smell the ocean, the beach and the salt soaked sand. I removed the black waste carefully with my fingers, appreciating the delicate contents. Once it was removed it exposed the rich almost ochre color of the gonads. They were smaller than I had expected. I removed them all reserving them in a colander to be washed. I cleaned all the membrane from the interior of the shell for plating and presentation. I washed and cleaned the roe, placing them back in their shell. I wanted to savour their natural flavour, I squeezed a touch of lemon and a touch of pink himalayan sea salt. Physically they resemble a tongue, they even feel like a tongue. The flavour is Umame. As I was cleaning them I respected their delicacy, and recognized their soft texture. Taste wise they are rich and buttery with a mild salty flavour. The acidity of the lemon enhanced the flavour without overpowering. Shellfish can be intimidating for the average person. Their flavour is distinct. I was so pleasantly surprised at how mild their seafood flavour actually was. Their exterior texture is unique to the smooth decadent sashmi however flavour was more neutral. I thouroughly enjoyed the experience and am eager to experiment and enjoy more uni.