Uni is the Japanese word for sea urchin, or more specifically, a sea urchin’s gonads and few naturally occurring ingredients offer the luxuriant texture and rich flavor Uni supplies. Dishes taste better with Uni, whether it’s the main attraction or a supplement.
Different types of Uni can be found in Japan:
Murasaki Uni comes from a dark purple sea urchin with long pointed spines. When prepared, it has a mustard yellow color, a clean, mildly sweet taste and lots of moisture.
TSUKIJI STOP #1: UNI TORA: UNI MORIAWASE うに虎：築地市場でうに盛り合わ
Errr.. before I dive into the details about different kinds of Uni, let me make mention of my own journey of how I discovered different kinds of Uni.
Well, to being with many people visit the Tsukiji market in search of Uni and they often ask me where to go? What do I recommend? In fact, a lot of tourists visit popular Uni joints where the queue is so long that appetite takes a toss when your turn comes in.
Therefore, being a foodie and a food explorer, I tried multiple Uni joints and I can safely say, I am a little able to pen this article to recommend which Uni to go for and how to identify Uni’s taste. Also, while exploring What I’ve learned is that each restaurant gets special pick of the fish at Tsukiji, So that is their specialization. The trick is to find the special store for a type of fish or in this case Uni you want to have.
I recently went to Uni Tora. I often have Uni here, but I don’t understand – why the Uni tastes differently all the time? Sometimes the Uni can be really good and sometimes really bad. The color also varied, it can be light yellow or very brown, and the texture dwindled between hard to soft.
So, it became a risky situation as I never knew what kind of Uni I will be served that day. After exploring too much, I realized it can be difficult to pick a good Uni place in Tsukiji. But this problem was solved with a trip to Uni Tora in Tsukiji. Follow footsteps through this map: http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1313/A131301/13037980/
All of the Uni came from different parts of Japan and I did not notice this but here is summary of my exploration.
- Very yellow/almost light-yellow Uni tastes light and not particularly flavorful. It also tends to be a bit chewy.
- The smooth orange Uni had a palatable texture and a nice taste. This was my favorite
- The very dark Uni had a richer taste, but the texture was very soft and not that pleasurable.
- The mix color of 2&3 had a rich taste and a soft texture. This was my 2nd favorite.
So, try to avoid the very dark or the very light-colored Uni and check the texture. I tend not to look it too mushy. When you are in Tsukiji, do go to Uni Tora in Tsukiji. It is a bit pricey but has great food and it’s a fun experience to try different uni.
Apart from that here’s the details of other kinds of Unis found in Japan.
Bafun uni comes from a compact, smaller sea urchin which is collected from the deepest ocean depths. It has a denser texture and does not contain as much water as the Murasaki uni. It has a dark orange color, is rich in umami and is slightly bitter.
Kita-murasaki uni has a more delicate texture and sweet flavor than regular murasaki Uni, while the Ezo-bafun uni has an intense yellow, jewel-like color, sweet aroma, and a distinct buttery taste.
Also popular in Japan is Uni imported from Santa Barbara, California and Maine. Both are larger and have a meaty texture, a sweet yet salty taste, and a deep yellow color. The Santa Barbara uni has a sweeter, floral taste unlike the much saltier taste of its Maine counterpart.
TSUKUJI STOP #2: UNI + OYSTERS + SCALLOPS GRILLED
After eating Uni to the heart content, I found that Unis paired with different meats are excellent. My second-best place that offers incredible delicious Unis paired with seafood are just WOW!
When walking around the outside of Tsukiji, there are often many outside stalls grilling fish and seafood. Recently they have been combining Uni with different types of shellfish. It is worth your time to walk around and check out the different stalls. To find this, it is not inside the Tsukiji fish market, but they are on the outskirts. But save room for the Uni combinations per the below.
#1: Oyster and Uni Grilled
#2. Oyster and Scallops grilled on a stick
#3. Crab and Uni grilled on a stick (no picture).
Enjoy your time in Tsukiji!
KINTAN: UNI+YAKINIKU = MICHELIN STARS
Who can forget going away treats? On my journeys I realized that going-away dinners are usually a discoveries and you regret why you didn’t find them early. One such dinner with my friend Cherry, who took me to Kintan to treat me with a going away dinner. It was the nicest dinner anyone has ever treated me to. Thanks Cherry!
The food is absolutely delish and ravishing looking. And there’s nothing better than the Uni and meat pairing in plethora of ways. Steaks were cooked on Molten rocks they are either cooked at your table or in the kitchen. This place is pricey but if you want to treat someone with a nice meal in a comforting ambience then this is the place for you.
To reach here follow the map — > http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1316/A131602/13118487/