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

Inspector Eric Rochette is the new officer in charge of the Port Alberni RCMP. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP sees drop in property crime in late 2020

Clamp-down on prolific offenders seen as one reason

Port Alberni’s Caden Tremblay played with the North Island Major Bantam Silvertips during the 2019-2020 season. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
BCHL: Port Alberni’s Caden Tremblay suits up for hometown Bulldogs

North Island Silvertips’ captain hopes to play for hometown crowd

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Barb Kalugin, chair of the Community For Kids Port Alberni Chapter, is presented with a cheque for $832 for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation from Anita Sutherland, Director of Operations and Opportunities with McLean Mill National Historic Site. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
McLean Mill Christmas event raises more than $800 for BC Children’s Hospital

Festival of Trees fundraiser went virtual due to COVID-19

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Tahsis mayor Martin Davis stands with an old-growth tree in McKelvie Creek Valley. The village of Tahsis signed a Letter of Understanding with forestry company Western Forest Products to establish McKelvie watershed as a protected area. Photo courtesy, TJ Watt.
Landmark deal expected to protect Tahsis watershed from logging

Tahsis and WFP agree on letter of understanding to preserve McKelvie Creek Valley within TFL 19

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

Ben Tyler was working on a Nicola area ranch when he disappeared. File photo
Ben Tyler was working on a Nicola area ranch when he disappeared. File photo
2 years after his riderless horse was found, police believe Merritt cowboy was killed

Two years after he went missing, Ben Tyner’s family makes video plea for information

A ground worker wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 unloads lobsters from a WestJet Airlines flight at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, January 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Trudeau teases stricter travel measures; Canadians flying to U.S. now need COVID test

Prime minister says measures need to not hurt imports and essential trade

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Seats in the waiting area of domestic departures lounge of Calgary International Airport are seen with caution tape on them on June 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
3-in-4 Canadians in favour of banning interprovincial travel: Poll

According to Research Co., 80 per cent of Canadians would like to see restrictions imposed

The shirts sell for $45, with 30 per cent of proceeds from each sale going to Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver. (Madame Premier/Sarah Elder-Chamanara)
Canadian company launches ‘hysterical’ T-Shirt to combat health officials’ use of word

A partnership with Tamara Taggart will see women broadcast the word on a T-shirt or tote bag

ICBC has seen savings on crash and injury claims in the COVID-19 pandemic, with traffic on B.C. roads reduced. (Penticton Western News)
ICBC opens online calculator for rate savings starting in May

Bypassing courts expected to save 20% on average

Most Read