A base recipe for serving Uni (sea urchin) with pasta

Posted on July 4, 2014 by Aun

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I have to admit, it took me a while to appreciate uni. I blame that on the fact that most of my early experiences with sea urchin were with product that today I wouldn’t touch, i.e. stinky and pissy. I remember eating a particularly disgusting uni sushi asking myself, “why would anyone prize this? It’s disgusting.” Of course, these days, I know better. I know that really fresh uni doesn’t have that pissiness or that stink or that funky taste that is really and truly revolting. Really fresh uni is sublime in an earthy, sensual kind of way.

These days I am super fortunate to have made friends with a lovely lass whose papa is a Japanese seafood importer. My wife and I now only buy uni from them. Not only are we getting good prices, we are assured of great quality.

Because of this access to top-notch uni, I’ve been experimenting a lot more with the ingredient this past year. One of the my favourite recipes/inventions has been my uni encased in a tomato water jelly. But making that dish is rather time-consuming. Another favourite that I have taken to serving guests quite often recently–and a dish that is far easier to make–is my version of uni pasta.

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Now, there are dozens upon dozens of recipes for uni pasta. The dish can be prepared in a more classically Italian style or cues can be taken from the Japanese (whom I believe are the masters of presenting sea urchin). For my own favourite style, I actually took inspiration from a photo in the Il Ghiottone cookbook. Il Ghiottone, if you don’t know, is in my opinion the best Italian restaurant in Japan. The original branch is in Kyoto, in a lovely hidden nook behind the much-visited Yasaka Pagoda. I consider its chef, Yasuhiro Sasajima, a true artist. I love his ability to create addictively delicious dishes based on the foundations of Italian cookery but which showcase Japanese seasonal produce.

Now, his cookbook is entirely in Japanese (with dish names also in Italian), which I can’t read. So, all I can do is look at the gorgeous pictures and try my best to decipher what ingredients he’s using and to imagine the flavours he’s created. The image that inspired me was this beautiful mound of pasta, dressed in a clear hardly-there sauce, tossed with soy beans, topped with uni, and plated with a small mound of a golden brown powder off to the side.

Knowing that most of Sasajima’s sauces are stock-based, I decided to make a reduced fish stock. I then finished this off with butter right before tossing in the cooked pasta. I did experiment with shucked soy beans but decided after a few versions that the dish didn’t need it. For the first few versions, I used dried scallops to make a powder which I sprinkled on the pasta to add some more umaminess but more recently, I have been creating a mix using pounded fried sakura ebi, diced shiso leaves and nori. This gets tossed into the pasta and gives it a lovely extra flavour.

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The uni, of course, should be super fresh and served in generous portions. I also like to top the uni with some ikura but my wife thinks it’s overkill. I, however, like the little salty explosions peppered through the dish.

Anyway, here’s my recipe. You can use any kind of pasta. I’ve used everything from bigoli to fregola and it still tastes great.

 

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Fiona August 9, 2014 at 2:00 am

    Hi! Apart from Meidi-Ya, where else can I get my paws on Uni? Thanks!

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