Like chicken, the neutral flavour of giant red sea cucumber allows it to absorb the flavours of the dish. (C. Pearce/Fisheries and Oceans Canada photo)

You want me to eat what? From giant sea cucumbers to sea urchin

Our waters are the envy of other countries for these five delicacies - Part 2

Black Press Media invites you to take a culinary stroll through local waters to support the men and women in B.C.’s exotic fisheries. In this second installment of a two-part series we present five of B.C.’s top exotic exports you can try at home. Click here for Part 1.

Giant Red Sea Cucumber

There are about 30 species of sea cucumber off the B.C. coast, but only the giant red is harvested commercially — three-million pounds of it in B.C. last year.

These creatures are soft, gelatinous tubes with leathery skin (contrary to their slimy appearance), a reddish-orange colour and rubbery yellow spikes. They can grow to about two-feet long and weigh up to two pounds.

Giant reds are a highly sustainable food hand picked from rocky shorelines and kelp beds, where they play a useful role breaking down dead organic matter. They have no true brain, but a ring of neural tissue surrounding the mouth.

The skins are often removed by harvesters for sale as a traditional Chinese medicine (for heart and kidney ailments), allowing at-home cooks to jump straight to the meal preparation with the meat, of which there is very little of in each animal. Once seperated it has a less-intimidating appearance comparable to sliced chicken breast — pink-ish beige and smooth.

Some compare its texture to a scallop, yet noticeably more tender. The desired consistency in many Chinese recipies is somewhat more gelatinous while still remaining solid.

The taste is neutral, or bland. But again, like chicken, this allows it to absorb the flavours of the dish.

It’s popularly diced into stir fries, but as with scallops or prawns, it can be utilized in almost any manner imaginable by a willing cook.

Giant red sea cucumbers can be found in seafood markets across the Lower Mainland and online ordering sites for about $25 per pound.

Sea Urchin Roe

When it comes to sea urchin, the term ‘roe’ is really a euphemism for gonads (and has been falsely labeled by many cultures as an aphrodisiac). But don’t let that turn you away. Sea urchins have earned solid footing in the culinary world as a most satisfying, savoury custard of the sea.

The sea urchin, or more specifically the popular Pacific red sea urchin, lives in our shallow waters and rocky shores, feeding on seaweeds and algae. Its mouth is located on its underside and its anus at the top. Its hard spherical shell radiates with hundreds of sharp, defensive spines it can use as stilts to walk around the ocean floor.

Divers pick up the urchins by hand, making this another sustainable fishery with zero bycatch.

Inside the shell, it’s remarkably cavernous, mostly containing sea water, with a small stomach and digestive tract surrounded by five crescents of gold-coloured roe.

For eating, the shell is cut open with scissors and the roe spooned out. With a quick rinse in salted water it can be eaten on the spot in its purest form.

It has a thick, buttery texture with a sweet and briny taste, and is high in protein but low in fat and calories.

The uses of sea urchin roe are limitless: uni donburi (sushi), sea urchin stuffed calamari, sea urchin pasta, sea urchin teriyaki sauce, sea urchin on a cheese platter or added to a dollop of vanilla ice cream are but a few ideas to get you started. Many more can be found on the website for the Pacific Urchin Harvesters Association.

Sea urchin is widely available in restaurants and markets at affordable prices.

READ MORE: Marine ecologists at work to protect kelp forests in the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve

Seaweed

Seaweed may be the least challenging food for most to eat on this list, but it’s also the most overlooked considering there are 630 species in B.C. waters but we often only find it as a background flavour in a handful of dishes.

Seaweed production has doubled around the world in the past decade as a kind of miracle plant because it requires only seawater and sunlight to grow, provides habitat for other sea life, mitigates ocean acidification and acts as a powerful carbon sink that eclipses the capacity of land-based forests. It’s good for the planet but excellent for humans — we’re talking about protein, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin B12, iodine, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and loads of calcium.

Best of all is the taste, the deepest of umami flavours (with the possible exception to the darkest mushroom or black truffle) with the added kick of that salt-water sweetness.

If you’re just starting out with seaweed, try it in it’s dehydrated form and add it to seasonings, salads and soups. There are exceptional small-scale B.C. harvesters like Canadian Kelp and Dakini Tidal Wilds on Vancouver Island, and BC Kelp in Prince Rupert with an assortment of dried, locally-sourced varieties from pristine, government-licenced tenures.

Turning the industry on its head is Sidney-based Cascadia Seaweed. They’re the first operation to go into full-scale farming, building nurseries, investing in infrastructure and growing the sugar kelp, alaria and dulse varieties from seed to maturity. Cascadia’s primary focus is consumer packaged products — ready to eat seaweed snacks. They work in strict partnership with B.C. First Nations to share the economic opportunities and plan to have 500 hectares of B.C. farming tenure (1,000 football fields) in place by 2025, with the goal of becoming North America’s largest provider of cultivated seaweed.

A sneak-peak of their spring product lanuch inclueds a seaweed jerky (with the texture of meat, but with that unmistakable salt and umami flavour) and of course seaweed salads (as a wet vegetable, seaweed has a firm, clean bite that’s slightly chewy but fresh within cool northern waters).

Whether dry, wet, or prepared, a little B.C. seaweed goes great with any of the seafoods mentioned in this series. Experiment and enjoy.

READ MORE: Sidney’s Cascadia Seaweed hopes to float to the top of a growing industry



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A giant red sea cucumber, with the skin still attached, is processed aboard a harvest vessel immediately after catch. (Pacific Urchin Harvesters Association photo)

A giant red sea cucumber, with the skin still attached, is processed aboard a harvest vessel immediately after catch. (Pacific Urchin Harvesters Association photo)

B.C.’s red sea urchin roe is famous for its thick, buttery texture with a taste that’s both sweet and briny. (Photo supplied by the Pacific Urchin Harvesters Association)

B.C.’s red sea urchin roe is famous for its thick, buttery texture with a taste that’s both sweet and briny. (Photo supplied by the Pacific Urchin Harvesters Association)

Fresh sea urchin roe. (Ulleo photo)

Fresh sea urchin roe. (Ulleo photo)

Crews at Cascadia Seaweed pull in a harvest. (Photo supplied by Cascadia Seaweed)

Just Posted

Royal Roads University president Philip Steenkamp said they are aware of hateful graffiti spray-painted in an area of the forest surrounding the campus. The graffiti in question includes anti-Semitic content and a racial slur towards Black people. (Facebook/Royal Roads University)
Anti-Semitic, hateful graffiti spotted in forest near Royal Roads University

Royal Roads working with West Shore RCMP to remove graffiti “as soon as possible”

A cougar was spotted at Royal Roads University on Sunday, Jan. 24. The sighting was reported on the western edge of the campus. (File photo)
Cougar spotted at Royal Roads University Sunday afternoon

Animal reported on western side of campus near Langford Fire Department

Saanich-based St. Luke’s Players community theatre company has been making the most of their opportunities to keep busy during the pandemic, including staging a Christmastime panto of Alice in Wonderland on Zoom. (Courtesy St. Luke’s Players)
Saanich’s St. Luke’s Players: Bringing the stage to the people

Community theatre company holding online auditions Jan. 23-24 for March production

Frank Bourree was awarded the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s first Governors’ Award of Distinction for his leadership in the business community. (Courtesy of Frank Bourree)
Frank Bourree receives award of distinction from Victoria chamber

Award recognizes positive role model in business community

The Habitat for Humanity Meaning of Home contest is open to students in Grades 5 to 6. (Screenshot/Habitat for Humanity video)
Habitat for Humanity launches national writing contest

Entries accepted from students in Grades 4 to 6 until Feb. 19

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

Most Read