09 Apr2014


Gonads, I kid you not. I didn’t know that, either. Have eaten uni in sushi and other Japanese dishes for years, and I just found out what part of the sea urchin they are. Perhaps more accurately, the gonads produce the “roe” — but I am not sure that scientifically makes sense… gonads producing eggs (apparently gonads CAN produce either sperm or eggs)… At any rate, each sea urchin has 5 gonads, and since this little bottle contained an estimated 80 sea urchins, that’s a whopping 400 gonads or so. No salt, no vinegar, just straight uni, and for an amazingly low price of PHP50 for a bottle! I know I’ve paid at least PHP50 for ONE piece of sushi with uni on top!


Men, male teens or kids gather hundreds of presumably mostly male sea urchins offshore (apparently the male and female sea urchins congregate in different areas of the seabed or reefs)…


…and count them and deliver them by the bucket full to family members or buyers waiting on the beach…


…several women or teen girls open up the sea urchins with large knives…


…then carefully scoop out the uni with the help of their thumbnails and drop the gonads into a re-used liquor bottle.


Working swiftly, it takes 2-3 women at least 20 minutes to fill just one bottle.


I have never eaten swaki from a bottle like this, and don’t know if it’s best mixed in with hot steaming rice or with a touch of vinegar, but I HAVE eaten swaki fresh out of the sea urchin, as I did in this old post, taken on an island just 15 minutes away from this particular beach, some 8 years ago.



  1. Betchay says:

    This is great MM!….one post after the other…making up for the 3 days off- line! :)

    Apr 9, 2014 | 7:28 pm


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  3. Susan says:

    Can a tool be used instead of a thumbnail? Probably add extra 10 min to the job though.

    Apr 9, 2014 | 8:04 pm

  4. Vanessa says:

    Looks delectable, but I do wonder how the urchin population is doing in these parts.

    Apr 9, 2014 | 10:44 pm

  5. Footloose says:

    It’s confusing because uni is not roe but actually the gonads which begs the question, what is this emulsion-like substance they are collecting and selling in Tanduay Rum lapad then?

    Apr 9, 2014 | 10:46 pm

  6. Mayk says:

    They call it tihi tihi

    Apr 10, 2014 | 12:01 am

  7. EJ says:

    Like Vanessa, I wonder what the effect this commercial activity has on the sea urchin population.

    Apr 10, 2014 | 4:50 am

  8. Stewart Sy says:

    Wow, PHP50! I paid some Bajao in Batangas to harvest about double the amount in that bottle for about P1000, including shucking the oysters. I ended up cooking it ala Eric Ripert when I was in Batangas last year.

    Hmm, I may have over paid! =).


    Apr 10, 2014 | 6:14 am

  9. Lee says:

    Hello Footloose! I haven’t read a comment from you for a long time.

    Apr 10, 2014 | 10:36 am

  10. jakespeed says:

    I have tried this once in Marigindon, Mactan in the mid-90’s after we beach-hopped. We ate this together with inihaw na baboy and isda. I was apprehensive at first because of the unsanitary looking bottle, but what the heck, I tried it and enjoyed ‘uni’ at its freshest form.

    Apr 10, 2014 | 2:48 pm

  11. Cathy says:

    One of the best things I remember about Bohol! Yum!

    Apr 11, 2014 | 11:46 am

  12. kristin says:

    Had my first taste test in Siargao four years ago, looking forward again this year. Lami!

    Apr 11, 2014 | 1:53 pm

  13. lynn v says:

    My mom used to get this from Tangke, an adjacent town from Talisay in Cebu. We ate this with lechon and puso on Sundays. I can still remember the smell of steaming hot lechon and the taste of that sweet, sweet uni.

    Apr 12, 2014 | 8:14 am

  14. millet says:

    ..and not a single hand had a glove on while handling the urchins. hands of steel!

    Apr 16, 2014 | 7:14 am

  15. Josie says:

    Hi! In what part of Batangas is this? I can just buy the sea urchin from the beach?

    Aug 2, 2014 | 8:11 am

  16. Marketman says:

    Josie, these photos taken in Bohol. Not Batangas.

    Aug 2, 2014 | 8:24 am


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