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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogSea Urchin and More: Five Unusual Seafoods! 

Sea Urchin and More: Five Unusual Seafoods! 

Thalia HarrisThalia Harris
Published Time
Posted on 
October 20, 2023
Modified Time
Updated last 
November 20, 2023
Bright orange sea urchin sushi.

Japanese seafood is more than just fish and eel; it’s also sea urchin and so much more! When it comes to culinary adventures, the world of Japanese seafood offers a delightful twist with its extraordinary delicacies that go beyond the ordinary! Here are five unusual seafoods you should know more about!

Uni (Sea urchin)

In the vibrant world of Japanese cuisine, let’s talk about a true culinary gem – uni, the quirky sea urchin! Known for its unforgettable briny zing and creamy charm, uni is like a rockstar in the Japanese food scene. It’s harvested along the cool Japanese coast and is a prized ingredient. It shines in various culinary creations, from sushi rolls to sashimi. And hey, sushi chefs? They’re the maestros, turning uni into a rich, creamy symphony.

An open sea urchin, showing orange flesh shaped like a star.
Sea urchin has a creamy taste! Image via Shutterstock

But wait, uni’s versatility doesn’t stop there. Meet uni-don, a rice bowl infused with the unique essence of uni. It’s a flavor fiesta that’ll make your taste buds dance. Uni isn’t just seafood; it adds creamy enchantment to pasta and risotto.

Imagine this: uni’s flavor is a seaside party, where brininess meets creaminess, giving you an oceanic taste with a smooth groove. In Japanese cuisine, uni is the celebrity guest, a luxurious gift that elevates any meal into a star-studded affair. So dive in and savor the delectable magic of uni – it’s a taste adventure you won’t want to miss!

Sazae (Turban shell)

Meet the turban shell, also known as sazae, in Japanese cuisine. It’s a delightful sea snail with a savory taste. Typically, it’s enjoyed baked to perfection, similar to clams, and holds a special place in Japanese culinary culture.

Two turban shells (sazae) on a wooden plate.
When baked, it tastes like clam! Image via Shutterstock

The sazae’s flavor is a harmonious blend of the sea, with a hint of saltiness that pairs magically with its delectably creamy texture. The secret to sazae’s appeal is its ability to complement creamy soups and dishes with finesse. And for those looking to experience this oceanic delight, Ninja Tokyo in Akasaka is the place to be. They serve sazae in a way that lets its unique attributes shine, turning it into a memorable culinary adventure.

Ready for a twist of sea flavors? Meet the sazae. It’s your ticket to gastronomic bliss with clam-like charm. This under-the-radar star complements creamy dishes on your Japanese culinary journey.

Hotate (Scallop)

Let’s dive into the world of scallops, or hotate in Japanese, a mouthwatering treasure of the sea that’s famous for its incredible versatility. These succulent morsels, often enjoyed seared to perfection, are a highlight in Japanese cuisine, mainly when served in delightful rice bowls.

Hotate’s flavor is a masterpiece of the sea, offering a delicate sweetness and a subtle saltiness that pairs beautifully with its tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Searing the scallops also enhances their natural sweetness, creating a delightful contrast with the slight crispiness on the outside.

A pan of seared scallops.
Scallops are also quite popular int he West! Image via Shutterstock

One of the best ways to enjoy hotate is in rice bowls, where these perfectly seared scallops take center stage. The scallops can be accompanied by various complementary ingredients, creating a symphony of flavors and textures in each bite.

Whether savoring hotate in a rice bowl, as part of a seafood platter, or in any other culinary creation, its versatility makes it a beloved ingredient in Japanese cuisine. The hotate is a culinary gem, offering a symphony of irresistible flavors. So, next time you explore Japanese cuisine, indulge in the magic of hotate – it’s a taste experience you won’t forget!

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Fugu (Pufferfish)

Welcome to the intriguing world of pufferfish, known as fugu in Japan. It’s a rare and highly sought-after delicacy, but there’s a twist – it can be dangerous if not prepared just right.

A plate of pufferfish (fugu) sashimi.
Fugu is a delicacy, but make sure they prepare it correctly! Image via Shutterstock

Fugu sushi is a luxurious treat requiring skilled chefs with special licenses to carefully remove its poisonous parts while keeping them tasty. The magic of fugu isn’t just in its flavor; it’s in the careful way it’s handled. Fugu has a mild, subtle taste that you can enjoy as sashimi or a fancy sushi topping.

But here’s the catch: only some chefs can prepare fugu. Only a select few in Japan have the skills and training to do it safely. When you try fugu, you’re not just having a meal – it’s like watching a carefully choreographed performance by these expert chefs. It’s a unique and extraordinary dining experience where each bite carries the weight of tradition, precision, and a bit of excitement!

Kamaboko (Fish cake paste)

Let’s take a closer look at kamaboko, a tasty fish cake paste often used in many Japanese dishes, especially as a topping for noodles and soups. It’s not as mysterious as some other Japanese foods, but it’s loved by many for its simplicity and versatility.

A plate of sliced fish paste cake (kamaboko). it's pink and white and unusual like sea urchin.
Fish paste cake is a common ingredient in ramen! Image via Shutterstock

Kamaboko adds a gentle seafood flavor and a hint of saltiness to soups, like the famous ramen and udon noodle bowls. What’s neat is that it’s shaped into various forms, like cute fish-shaped cakes, making it yummy and friendly.

While kamaboko doesn’t have the excitement or danger of other Japanese foods, it’s a familiar and comforting part of Japanese cuisine. Whether enjoying ramen or a cozy hot pot, kamaboko brings a taste of the sea and extra deliciousness to your everyday Japanese meals.

What makes sea urchin and other seafood so unusual?

In the world of seafood, sea urchins and their friends are special treats. Their unique mix of uncommon flavors and textures makes them different from everyday seafood like fish or shrimp. Sea urchin, or uni, is known for its particular salty taste and creamy, buttery feel that’s rich and unforgettable.

Not to mention, turban shell, or sazae, has a sweet and salty charm, while pufferfish, or fugu, is fascinating because it tastes fancy and can be risky to prepare. Even fish cake paste, kamaboko, while simpler, adds a nice seafood touch to dishes with its adaptability.

A plate sea urchin.
Have you ever had sea urchin before? Image via Shutterstock

These seafood treats bring something different, making them highly valued in Japanese cooking. They’re not the same as regular fish or shrimp; they provide unique experiences through their flavors or the skills to prepare them safely. Sea urchin, turban shell, pufferfish, and kamaboko each have special qualities, adding their unique flavor to the beautiful world of Japanese seafood.

We’d like to know what you think about these exceptional seafood experiences. Have you tried any of them, or do you have any questions? Leave a comment below and share your seafood stories or culinary adventures with us!

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