Trending Now: Hit the Roe

roe

Photograph by Travis Rathbone; food styling by Chris Lanier; prop styling by Natasha Louise King

Uni, or the creamy roe from spindly sea urchins, is no longer just a sashimi-bar staple—these days it’s getting smoked and smeared on toast (Row 34), folded into carbonara (Coppa), and whisked into vinaigrette (La Brasa). That said, the yellow roe’s potent saline flavor can be divisive. But if you think you don’t like it, you may have just had bad uni. “The reason why it’s fishy is because it’s not fresh or top grade,” says Chris Chung, the chef and co-owner of Aka Bistro in Lincoln. Or you may have just not had the right type for your palate. Here, Chung shares the three varieties that he prefers—ordered from mildest to most assertive.

Mildest:
Hokkaido (pictured)

Hailing from Japan, this variety has a “sweet, clean” flavor, according to Chung. “It has an ocean flavor, but it’s not super strong,” he says.

Medium:
Santa Barbara

From the West Coast, these urchins arrive to restaurants live, and contain roe that’s mild but has more pronounced “floral” notes. It’s harder for restaurants to procure—so if you see the stuff on a menu, make sure you order it.

Strongest:
Maine

Coming from the East Coast ocean floor, this style of uni—which you’ll mostly find on menus in the winter, when it’s at its prime—has the most assertive “ocean” flavor, Chung says. It works well in hot applications—broiled on a baguette, or stirred into sauces.

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Hungry for more?

Check out our complete “Seafood Lover’s Guide.”