If you don’t know what uni (うに/海胆 sea guts/海栗 sea chestnut) is, I’ll fill you in on a dirty secret- it’s not the roe of sea urchin, per se. Rather, it’s what secretes the roe.
Not hungry anymore?
Yes, it often seems difficult to understand how vast the imagination of a restaurant owner in Japan/food vendor/weird New York-based blogger can be. Let’s look at today’s case-in-point–
Back story- one of many cool aspects of Japan for someone nearly always thinking about food is the frequent presence of food fairs at the upper floor of department stores. Those top floors are usually reserved for limited time events, say, jewelry or art festivals, a display of local shamisen, or a collection of typical foods from a certain region/city of Japan.
During a recent visit to Fukuoka – where last time, I met a rather jovial and libertine local – I decided to take a chance by popping in various department stores, hoping that a food fest would be occurring. Sure enough, there was a showcase for specialties from relatively nearby Kumamoto prefecture.
Whereas there’s always a quality selection at these events – in this case, watermelon sugar and horse stood out – one item was a bit more nuanced than the rest:
Uni cream cheese, produced in Amakusa city, well-known for its sea urchin harvest. Quite honest to the description – in Japanese, it says “Amakusa uni kaiseki (a quick bite before a tea ceremony)” on the right, and “cream cheese” on the left.
In spite of my willingness to try nearly anything once, uni was not a like-at-first-bite for me, way back when. I’ve since jumped on the bandwagon, and in all fairness, I’d cover a NY bagel with this stuff any day. Even today.
I used to think uni tasted like how a durian smells, but I’ve grown out of that association, too. What do you reckon?