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

 

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

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Most Read