04 May2008


I wrote about eating swaki even FRESHER than the ones in these photographs, taken while on a trip to Bohol several years ago, and while on a huge sandbar, one of the bangkeros pulled some sea urchins out of the sea and opened them up and let us eat the bright orange yellow roe right then and there… they were superb. But these sea urchins weren’t too shabby either, just 10-20 minutes out of the water and still very much alive, I spied them being opened for someone’s lunch appetizer not far from the Bogo market and close to the sea shore.


The plastic basin was filled with some 2-3 dozen sea urchins with shorter spines (there are dozens and dozens of types of sea urchins, the most menacing being the ones with long black spines) and still entangled in some rather vibrant yellow green seaweed. Split open, they had a beautiful yellow orange roe, slightly briney and which would instantly dissolve on one’s tongue. Highly prized as a sushi ingredient in Japanese restaurants, there is nothing like eating it straight out of the urchin.


To extract, make sure you have an edible variety of sea urchin. Next, take a sharp knife and with one swift confident blow around 1/3 of the way up the body of the sell, cut the urchin into two. Carefully fish out the pretty grotty innards until all you are left with is one half of the shell, with five lovely strips of yellow orange roe.


I am sure it is an acquired taste for most, but once you acquire it, and you have eaten it seconds after the urchin is whacked, you will be spoiled forever… :)




  1. Ellen says:

    OH MYYYY!!!! I love sea urchins!! We call it maritang-tang in ilocano. It’s a ‘fear factor’ food for most of my friends but they don’t know what they’re missing..tsk tsk..i love the sweetness of a freshly opened maritang-tang and dang i miss it!! arrghh!!

    May 4, 2008 | 6:33 am


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  3. Maria Clara says:

    Yes, they are treasure in Japanese restaurants in sushi or as is in a bed of shaved ice with real wasabi and soy sauce and of course the ambiance in the resto with saki. Not all Japanese restaurants offer them – only high end ones for all I know.

    May 4, 2008 | 6:52 am

  4. Marichu says:

    oh, man! at the “cheap” kaiten sushi places here, it’s $5 per two pieces of nigiri sushi. And there’s only a piece in each rice boat. but i can’t help ordering it with ikura! ahhh, payday is next week. i guess i know where that money is going.

    May 4, 2008 | 7:12 am

  5. Apicio says:

    Could there be a way of extracting the precious roe without having to break the shell (I am imagining once again yet another single-use implement here) because when left to weather outside they leave these beautifully patterned translucent domes that can be used quite effectively as decoration. Lo and behold ‘round ten years ago, Bernardaud started making them as votive vessels in limoge no less.

    May 4, 2008 | 7:28 am

  6. Mandaragat says:

    I didn’t know na edible pa ‘to, in Subic we call it “tayum”. We often avoid this creature whenever we swim around the rocks in between the shore and Snake Island.

    May 4, 2008 | 7:41 am

  7. joey says:

    oh my gosh. i adore sea urchins (my brothers hate it — which only means more for me, haha)! but i’ve never had them straight out of the urchin — these must have been a little piece of heaven. i would have to try eating it that way one day.

    May 4, 2008 | 7:45 am

  8. Fran Magbual says:

    A squeeze of lemon into the shell right before you scrape it out is also nice. My mouth is watering!

    May 4, 2008 | 8:13 am

  9. misao says:

    i had a similar experience of eating this fresh out of the waters of bohol… i couldn’t eat uni in most jap restos here in manila because of an off taste to it… but when i ate in panglao, there’s a really big difference in taste… i think i can only eat this stuff if it’s freshly harvested…

    May 4, 2008 | 8:29 am

  10. chi says:


    May 4, 2008 | 9:59 am

  11. rachel says:

    i love sea urchin.on our visit to laluz last year my son and nephews started collecting these sea urchin and i opened and eaten them to my cousins disbelief, now they know that i really would eat anything.i get them from a japanese grocery store here about 45min drive.very expensive though at $12 for 2 oz. but it’s really worth it.

    May 4, 2008 | 10:08 am

  12. c says:

    when fresh it has this lovely sweet, sea taste!

    May 4, 2008 | 10:45 am

  13. Silly Lolo says:

    Wow! That Bogo market is something else. Guys and gals,this is where we gotta make “estambay”! I have never eaten this stuff right out of the water and I bet it is heavenly. Here in SFO I go to a restaurant where this is served on top of raw Blue Point oysters. expensive but I pay with a smile on my face.

    May 4, 2008 | 11:44 am

  14. EbbaMyra says:

    Oh gosh, I love this roe on my sushi. And to think that I am not even sure how “old” thy ae. Thinking about your experience of having eaten it right after being picked, naku inggit talaga ako and I can only imagine how .. well, how can I say it.. delectably awesome taste. Wow, I am coming to Pinas and I am going to the a fishing village in Quezon, meron kaya silang ganyan? Naku naman. The closest I experience eatng in seafood (other than shrimps that are stil moving), are these giant squids, that most fisherman sells to me right off the boat.

    May 4, 2008 | 12:42 pm

  15. kasseopeia says:

    Oh my, ang taba nung urchins na yan! It must be in season! I remember eating it fresh from the sea (on the boat pabalik ng resort) in Puerto Galera. The boatmen were vague about whether it was prohibited or just controlled (I now know for a fact that it’s prohibited) and won’t tell me where to get them. They charged 10 pesos per urchin (not bad – the roe was abundant) and I don’t think they’d want to lose the chance to make money off some uni-eating tourist. Hehe… All I saw during my dives were the black urchins with spines you could cook chicken kebabs with.

    I loved uni the first time I tried it in Pangasinan (Alaminos, I believe) as a kid. I pretty much eat anything and it wasn’t Fear-Factor-ish for me. The slightly briney taste is balanced by the fresh sweetness in the roe, wrapped in a creamy, velvety package. I’m drooling!

    I discovered, however, that it loses its “fresh” quality ince cooked. During a trip to the North, I paid a boatman to gatehr urchins for me. I set aside about two urchins’ worth of roe, sauteed it on EVOO with some garlic, julliened basil and a splash of white wine to top some penne. It was creamy and velvety but somehow the briney sweetness was gone.

    So eat it fresh fresh fresh!!!

    Now I’m drooling!

    Silly Lolo, let’s eat urchin before we smoke the duhat cigarettes while making “estambay” in the market. Hehehe…

    May 4, 2008 | 2:20 pm

  16. lee says:

    to: kasseopeia. i will join you. a little lapad of rum for me and the lolo

    May 4, 2008 | 2:43 pm

  17. Vanessa says:

    This seafood lover went weak at the knees. Bogo market is a veritable treasure trove! Great post and great photos, Marketman. :-)

    May 4, 2008 | 2:49 pm

  18. lojet says:

    The ones i’ve tasted was bought fresh from the market but maybe not so fresh anymore by the time the party started and the host broiled it for a couple of minutes just to congeal the roe after cleaning. I thought it was delicious! it was some time ago. The urchins were from the Fulton fish market before it relocated to the Bronx.

    May 4, 2008 | 3:29 pm

  19. Homebuddy says:

    Not for me, thanks! That is very true it is an acquired taste and I haven’t acquired it yet, guess I just don’t like it.

    May 4, 2008 | 3:54 pm

  20. Fabian M says:

    Thanks for posting MM. I think sea urchin roe is delicious. I can only imagine how good it is when very fresh!

    May 4, 2008 | 4:39 pm

  21. juli says:

    Are the black nasty looking ones edible? I’ve been pricked countless time as a kid, it would be justice if I get to eat one.

    May 4, 2008 | 6:13 pm

  22. Mandaragat says:

    ditto @ juli….

    May 4, 2008 | 6:54 pm

  23. Marketman says:

    juli, I am not an urchin afficionado, but I don’t think the black ones are sought after… As for lojet and those from Europe… the sea urchins there are similar and are also enjoyed in this manner… but they are slightly different species or relatives from the ones pictured here. Actually, I have never had cooked sea urchin. Have always eaten it raw.

    May 4, 2008 | 8:23 pm

  24. Adrian says:

    I love sea urchin, but I have never eaten them as fresh as just out of the sea. In Bacolod we get them at a Japanese restaurant although I know that fresh ones abound. I once was walking the beach in Cauayan, Negros Occidental and there were remains of what looked like a big sea urchin fiesta! Just hundreds of dried half open urchin shells! Must have been really good!

    May 4, 2008 | 8:54 pm

  25. Chris says:

    Those dark sea urchins with menacingly long spines are also edible, and are actually considered premium quality. Take a look at this link- http://www.catalinaop.com/California_Gold_Uni_p/sushi_roe_3a1.htm

    May 4, 2008 | 11:07 pm

  26. Lava Bien says:

    MM, like I said u d man!
    Man I so love sea urchin or uni. I usually order “unitama” South Cali sea urchin on top of little rice topped with raw quail egg yellow, ummmmmmm…. yummmy 8 bucks a pop but man oh man it is hella good!.
    Would love to try it in Bohol, that my next stop!

    Thanks for all your postings man, totally appreciated dude!

    May 4, 2008 | 11:18 pm

  27. Jon says:

    Those pictures of sea urchins remind me of my fun summer vacations at my grandparents’ home in Tablas Island. Every afternoon during low tide, we would head to the beach and collect seashells for dinner (now that I’m here in the States, I totally miss the taste of ginataang sihi). The highlights of those afternoons would always be eating sea urchin roes there and then–fresh from the seabed!

    May 4, 2008 | 11:24 pm

  28. Macris says:

    I would give anything for uni right this moment !

    May 5, 2008 | 2:25 am

  29. Quillene says:

    Haaay! There you go again, MM!

    Tempting me with the impossible!!! Hehehe!!!

    But, it really is an acquired taste.


    May 5, 2008 | 8:18 am

  30. The Jolly Jetsetter says:

    Looks delicious! I am a big sea urchin fan and also an avid diver– i have always wanted to just split one open. Is there a way to choose the right Sea Urchin to eat? I suppose it all depends on the waters they are in?

    May 5, 2008 | 9:33 am

  31. Carlo says:

    When I was young, I hated sea urchin and always wondered why my parents loved uni sushi so much. Later on, I grew to appreciate the taste of uni and now I always order it whenever I eat in Japanese restaurants.

    May 5, 2008 | 10:00 am

  32. mojito_drinker says:

    i luuuuv uni sushi! would love to try sea urchin fresh from the sea!

    May 5, 2008 | 11:55 am

  33. Eileen Clement says:

    We used to gather sea urchins (maratangtang, In Ilocano) during our trips to Paraoir, Luna, La Union when we were small.
    The sea urchins are roasted a bit before being cracked open. We kids would queue for the uni- while our “olds” tear the roasted shell into smaller pieces, soak them in hot water and add mashed ripe tomatoes and lasuna, sift and voila!– tasty sea urchin broth/soup for you!
    Nothing is left to waste…

    May 5, 2008 | 12:22 pm

  34. Belle says:


    May 5, 2008 | 5:22 pm

  35. brenda says:

    when we were in Bantayan Island and was island hopping, our bangkero started to gather these swaki while we are feasting with our grilled fish and crabs that we bought from the other island. I even joined the bangkero in collecting them and eat them fresh.It was really delicious paired with Tanduay rhum.

    May 6, 2008 | 11:34 am

  36. mike says:

    The black sea urchin is edible pala. Napakarami sa amin nyan. Thanks Cris!

    May 6, 2008 | 12:41 pm

  37. Chris says:

    The “roe” as it turns out, is actually the sea urchin’s sex organs. Sea urchins spawn like corals, meaning the females release eggs into the sea and at the same time, males release sperm as well, fertilizing the eggs floating around. So the females do not keep fertilized eggs in their bodies for laying later on. That makes it even more fear factor-ish. Interesting isn’t it? But I still like Uni.

    May 6, 2008 | 4:19 pm

  38. Chris says:

    Mike, I should add that the sea urchin pictured in that link is “Strongylocentrotus franciscanus” They have longer spines than the local swaki. There are, however, sea urchins with even longer spines that really look scary. They are of the Diadematidae family, apparently, and they are dangerous. Link to photo: http://www.scuba-equipment-usa.com/marine/JUL05/Setosum_Spined_Urchin(Diadema_setosum).html

    May 6, 2008 | 4:49 pm

  39. sonny sj says:


    You can preserve the shell of the sea urchin by extracting the roe thru a small hole at the flat end of the shell. This is the area where the beak or mouth (i really dont know how it is called) is located. Gently tap the area using the back of a spoon. Once the beak breaks away from the shell, pull it out slowly. Most of the innards should come along with it. Pick the small bits of innards left inside the shell, before scooping out the roe using the spoon.
    And yes, the beautifully patterned domes are good decorations, as i have seen in Crocodile Island, Sta. Ana, Cagayan Province.

    May 8, 2008 | 1:00 pm

  40. wil-b cariaga says:

    mmmm. . .i love uni. . . is it high in cholesterol, cause we eat this a lot. . . well i mean half or one cup is a lot of it. . .hehe though its really good. ..

    May 8, 2008 | 1:45 pm

  41. thelma says:


    Jun 5, 2008 | 8:55 am

  42. Ariel says:

    according to http://www.isladelrey.cl/products/seaurchin.htm, every 100grams of uni contains 900mg of cholesterol. i will just have to cut down on chicharon

    Jun 9, 2008 | 11:30 pm

  43. Tadoscoppernicus says:

    Yes I agree na the best ito pag fresh. That was a vacation in Panglao Bohol ang we went to Bil-at(beach resort in panglao). That was low tide and that was the time to sea this creatures within the shore. To make the story short I’ve seen a pair of sea urchin. The “swaki” type of urchin. Swaki is better than Tuyom(the black urchin). It taste really good at fresh. It was a grilled swaki at all. Wow that was a great experience!

    Jun 10, 2008 | 4:08 pm

  44. d j says:

    im doing a project on the black sea urchin and part of it is on human contact so im mentioning this ‘roe” which is very interesting

    Jun 10, 2008 | 5:20 pm

  45. william tait says:

    i live in the north east of scotland and have a small lobster boat i often get sea urchin up in the net can any one tell me if there is a market over here for such a thing allways wanted to try one but i think i would like to cook it first

    Aug 12, 2008 | 8:24 pm

  46. Masterlou J.Tablason says:

    I am an animal science,in my research study we use sea urchin as feed supplement as a good source of protein,fed to the laying quail.Together with my co-researcher,we believe that sea urchin can help to increase the laying performance of quail or into laying birds because of high crude protein contain of sea urchin. Although my research about the laying performance of quail using sea urchin are still on going, we believe that it can help to enhance laying performance.

    Oct 2, 2008 | 9:53 am

  47. tim griffin says:

    Hi I’m a sea urchin harvester from Maine and we get paid around one to two dollars a pound for the live sea urchins. Does this sound like we are getting ripped off to anyone else? I would love to hear some feedback!! Thank you.

    Oct 23, 2008 | 6:26 am

  48. Marketman says:

    tim, if you lived in the philippines, you would probably have to get 10 pounds or more of sea urchins to earn a dollar… so from the third world perspective, you aren’t doing so bad…

    Oct 23, 2008 | 10:38 am

  49. Haskin says:

    umm…. are black sea urchins edible to eat??
    because.. i always saw black sea urchins in the rocks whenever we go fishing here in Subic Bay…….

    coz….. here…. the waters are protected.. and only fishing lines are allowed, no nets….

    umm…. how can i know if its edible or not??

    please do tell….

    Jan 13, 2009 | 10:41 pm

  50. iyoy says:


    rather late response, but, yes, black urchins with long and sharp spines are generally edible. harvest them with a forked stick, dump into into a woven rattan basket, and sort of sift the basket so the urchins rub against each other to break the spines. proceed to open as described in mm’s post.

    some of the brown ones with short and blunt spines (they can be handled bare-handed)need to be lightly roasted in an open fire to remove possible itchiness to the lips.

    Jun 1, 2009 | 3:05 pm

  51. daguerrson says:

    sea urchins are called maratangtang in northern Philippines. I love these creatures, they’re so exotic.

    Jun 11, 2009 | 4:37 am

  52. charlie says:

    The black ones with long, stinging spines are the best, yes, far masarap than the swake! In bohol, they are called “tuyom”. For the novice, you have to deal with the strong smell of iodine…

    Jun 11, 2009 | 12:04 pm


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