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

CP’s proposed logistics park would be in the fields just across the tracks from its intermodal yard in Pitt Meadows. (Google)
Pitt Meadows wants higher tax rate for CP Rail

Councillors decry a rate that equates railway to a dentist’s office

Almost every health region in the province saw an increase in overdose calls last year. (Blackpress files)
Overdose call numbers reach five-year-high in Maple Ridge.

BC Emergency Health Services responded to almost 500 local calls in 2020

Cam Blake released his first album called <em>Bad Vacation</em> on Jan. 15. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge musician releases first album

Cam Blake’s first album, Bad Vacation, released Jan. 15

Members of the Maple Ridge Disc Golf Club team up to update the “frolf” course at Thornhill Park. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge Disc Golf Club helps upgrade local course

Thornhill Park frisbee links usage has skyrocketed since pandemic

Cody Malawsky at the box lacrosse provincials in 2019. As the highly skilled player adds size he will dominate junior, predicts longtime coach Daren Fridge. (Tim McCormick/Special to The News)
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

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

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

Most Read