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

This concept artwork from July 2020 shows the inland port planned for the former Skeena Cellulose mill site in Terrace. (Image courtesy Hatha Callis, Progressive Ventures Group)
Terrace city council approves inland port OCP amendments

Project still requires zoning bylaw, development permit to continue

This copper frog pendant was made by Jamika Aksidan, a young Nisga’a artist who was recently recognized with an award for her work. (Photo courtesy Nisga’a Museum)
Nisga’a youth artist wins award

Award includes $500, exhibition in Nisga’a Museum

A BC Hydro outage is affecting nearly 4000 customers in Kitimat. The cause of the outage is under investigation. (Screenshot/BC Hydro Outage Map)
Cable fault responsible for Kitimat power outage, BC Hydro says

At its peak, the BC Hydro power outage affected near 4,000 customers

Graph showing the 2020 passenger totals at the Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace. (Submitted/Northwest Regional Airport)
New year brings an end to a turbulent 2020 at Northwest Regional Airport

Passenger totals half of what they were in 2019

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read