In previous posts I’ve covered how a squid is prepared for consumption in Japan (unfortunately now eaten in one of our site updates), and showed the consumption of a fish’s heart still beating. During a recent trip to Rebun Island, the northernmost island in Japan after Hokkaido, I had a chance to break open and prepare a sea urchin at a local fishery. The pictures of the experience are posted here for readers to enjoy below.
Sea urchins are a delicacy in Japan. Here is a tub of the spiny creatures waiting to be shipped across the country or otherwise served up for food.
The only edible part of the creature are its orange gonads. This requires completely destroying the creature, breaking through its spines and hard crusty shell. To split the creature open, three tools are required — a chisel with a lever, a dull scalpel, and twezers.
The rest of this gets messy… don’t continue to read if you have a thin skin (no pun intended).
First, the chisel is stabbed into the top of the urchin about half an inch.
Then, the level is pulled and the flat part of the chisel pushes open, splitting the sea urchin in half.
With bare hands, the sea urchin is then pulled apart, its spines still wriggling in desperation. I asked a native supervising my experience if I would be hurt by grabbing the spines of this sea urchin which would likely do anything to stop its own destruction. The lady replied, “the only one who is going to be hurt here is that sea urchin.”
The dull scalpel is then used to scrape the inside of the sea urchin into a tray, trying to avoid the brown inards and aim for only the orange gonads.
Twezers are then used to remove the brown innards that are not the tender orange gonads. The gonads are then washed in salt water and served as is.
Here’s one popular tourist food — sea urchin served over rice, with wasabi on top (sale price approximately US$18).