I’m not the only chef who is obsessed with using sea urchin, or uni, in the kitchen. It’s basically umami that’s already created for you; a lot of people like to call it fish butter or butter of the sea. But before it was easily seen across restaurant menus, it was most often plopped on sushi, with chefs having sea urchin flown in from Santa Barbara, California or Hokkaido, Japan. I receive mine in this small, very expensive wooden trays so I’m excited to see the entire process from the very beginning.
I’m hanging out at Maruhide Marine Products in this episode of How to Make It, who on the day of my visit, is bringing in sea urchin from Santa Barabara Island and San Clemente Island. Mark Nonoyama is on the team at Maruhide, and he’s walking me through the process of cracking the sea urchin — oddly therapeutic — and how each piece of sea urchin is graded, based on color, firmness, and dryness.