What the heck are these strange looking creatures, you ask? Swaki, I am told. Not actually sure if that is spelled right or it could be suaki, I suppose. These kinder and gentler sea urchins are a delicacy and their roe? are eaten soon after they are plucked from clean and hospitable sea waters. Unlike their nightmare causing cousins, the black sea urchins with sharp needle-like spines that can be 8-10 inches long, these softer sea urchins are less painful to look at and for some, better eating. Actually, I noticed they are actually quite stunning on closer inspection as the natural intensity of their colored spines is something you only see in really natural creatures or thingsâ€¦
I am currently out of town, and swamped with work (he’s retired???), hence the lack of posts these past few days. In the middle of a hectic schedule, I jumped into a banca on Alona Beach in Panglao, Bohol and zipped over to this fantastic little island called Pungtod that is about 1,000 square meters of land and hundreds of meters if not a kilometer of sandbar. Spectacular! What a nice diversion for an hour or so. I had been there once before and wanted to revisit. It was nicer than I remembered it. While futzing around on the island, and slowly getting attacked by sand fleas whose bites only emerge a day later, I noticed the boatmen collecting these sea urchins.
In just half an hour they had filled several white plastic bags with about 8 dozen swaki gathered from the shallow waters around the sand bar. They kindly split one open for me to try. You basically scoop the soft edible portion from the inside of the shell with your fingertips and pop it into your mouth. It has a definite clean taste of the sea, but oddly sweet when you expect a seriously salty flavor. It was very good. Probably an acquired taste for most, this swaki is perhaps the equivalent of say caviar for those on the banks of the Caspian seaâ€¦ It was unlike the uni or sea urchin that you eat at top flight Japanese restaurantsâ€¦Iâ€™m told that is because it is a different variety of sea urchin.