This is a sea urchin steamed bun (or ウニ饅, Uni-man in Japanese). DS and I chanced upon this while visiting Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo last month.
How could we not check it out, right? 🙂
The inner yellowish filling has a texture like a soft fish cake, and is made from a mixture of kneaded sea urchin, dried sea urchin, fish and chicken cartilage (according to the signboard – see next photo below). The outer layer is made of flour and bamboo charcoal powder, thus black in colour. It costs JPY300 (about S$3.75) each.
So, what was the verdict? Yes, I liked it although it didn’t give me a wow effect. I think it is quite special but some may find it a little bit fishy. It was like eating a hot (as in temperature hot) bun with soft fish cake in it. The bun is soft too. The taste was just right for me (some Japanese food can be very salty). DS was not impressed by it though.
The other type available was the Uni-man Kiwami (ウニ饅。極み), meaning “the ultimate sea urchin bun” in Japanese, that looked very inviting. This bun was the grand-prize winner in the 14th Gourmet and Dining Style Show (a trade event held twice a year, in Spring and Autumn, in Japan) last autumn.
The Uni-man Kiwami is an “open” bun with two layers of sea-urchin – steamed paste and sauce at the bottom and fresh sea-urchin as topping. DS and I began to appreciate eating fresh sea urchins after we have tasted some really good ones in Hokkaido last year. I would love to try this out too but at the price of JPY840 (about S$10.50) each, I thought that would be too expensive for a try. Furthermore, our stomachs were still feeling full from our delicious sushi lunch. With fresh sea urchin on it, it would be necessary to eat it there and then.
These buns are a specialty that is relatively new in Tsukiji Fish Market and started selling only in December 2013, if I am not wrong.
So, would you be interested to try these buns out when you are in Tokyo?
Note : If you have not tasted raw sea urchins before, beware that they may have an urine (or rather ammonia) smell/taste if they are not fresh enough. So I think it is a smell/taste not easily accepted by many. DS and I have eaten raw sea urchins in Singapore, even in an expensive Japanese restaurant, but none is anywhere near the ones we had eaten in Sapporo – fresh, soft and incredibly sweet! 🙂
Chirashizushi (vinegared rice topped with mixture of fresh seafood including sea urchins) from a sushi restaurant near Nijo Market in Sapporo. Quite a generous portion of sea urchins in the middle of the toppings.
Loved this fresh sea urchins so much that we ordered a second plate!