Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Making Uni Shooters
Uni, the roe of the sea urchin, quite frankly looks like a beige tongue. It is by no means great looking.
Its appearance has repelled many diners; even loyal sushi fans who go out a few times a week for their spicy tuna rolls, yellowtail nigiri, and occasionally, a piece or two of eel or scallop deign to sample it. Uni is the ugly little princess of the sushi menu. Only those who can work past uni’s façade can break the spell, the curse of flavor ignorance.
It has a smooth, slippery texture, and when heated (or eaten) develops an almost custard-like consistency. It has to be kept very cold or it will begin to melt around the edges. It tastes like what makes a fish sweet, with none of the fishiness and about three times the richness. You have to try it. Commonly paired with uni is the raw quail egg, tama in Japanese. They have a much milder flavor and more delicate texture than chicken eggs, and are about one-fifth the size. The inside is a rather calming shade of blue.
Some of the bottled ponzu sauce found in supermarkets is too acidic and can really overpower the sweetness of uni and sort of… hurt your throat. While you’re at the Asian market anyway for the uni and quail eggs, invest a few more dollars in a better brand with a lighter taste– Otafuku is made with yuzu, an aromatic citrus fruit that has both sweet and tart grapefruit and mandarin overtones, and less acid than kabosu or sudachi, other Japanese citruses with stronger lemon and lime flavors that are also used in making ponzu.
1 2 oz. tray fresh uni
1 carton quail eggs (sold by either the 10 or dozen)
1 bottle dry sake, like Ozeki or Sho Chiku Bai
Tobiko, or other fish roe
Thinly sliced green onions
Preparing an uni shooter is a simple matter, and absolutely nothing to be intimidated by. It’s pretty fun, actually. The Disco Bandit is from Kingdom of Loathing. Layer the bottom of a shot glass with uni.
Pour in sake to the half mark, then fill to ¾ with ponzu
Add a small amount of roe.
Carefully, using a sharp knife tap to puncture the shell, crack the quail egg on top of the shot
and add a drop or two of Tabasco and a few green onions to garnish. Sip or shoot.
If you have five or six of these (and you should), you'll also get a little drunk. Just warning you.
If you come across yuzu at an Asian market, and want to make a dozen or so shooters’ worth of fresh ponzu, set aside a quarter cup of its juice and boil a tablespoon of its zest with a few tablespoons of good quality soy sauce, ¾ cup mirin (sweet rice wine) 1/3 cup rice vinegar and half a cup of bonito flakes. Strain the flakes out of the sauce and add the yuzu juice. It will really make a difference, stay fresh for a few weeks in the fridge in a bottle or sealed container and makes a great stir fry sauce for fish and vegetables.