Most people associate them with Asian cuisine, and may not even know that you can get native sea urchins in Scotland, growing wild in abundance in sheltered Scottish Bays.
Certainly their spiky appearance may put diners off, and many may even be unsure how to navigate the spikes to find the delicious creamy roe with a hint of iodine that is the most delicious part.
A Scottish seafood chef wants to change all this though, as he is both selling Scottish sea urchins in his fishmongers in Crieff, as well as serving up the delicacy at his restaurant in Rattray, Blairgowrie.
Willie Little of Little's Restaurant explained that unlike their Japanese counterparts which are already the next big thing down south with Michelin-starred chefs, Scottish Sea Urchins are cheap and accessible.
He said: "Though they are paler in colour and smaller in size than Japanese urchins, which these chefs were buying them in from abroad, they are cheaper and fresher too.
“It’s a million pound market. Urchins, which are plentiful here in Scotland and found in sheltered bays and lochs, were a staple food in centuries past. Like most seafood, they are low in calories but rich in protein, making them a food we should try and eat more of.”
“I don’t want to see them all end up in London, I want us Scots to be enjoying them again ourselves. They taste delicious and I use them to make a soup which is served with fresh Orkney hand dived scallops. I serve it in the shell for added drama.
“It looks fantastic as it has a foamy appearance with is very eye catching. It’s going down very well in the restaurant once people get over their reservations and try it.”
Willie added that the urchins are easy to prepare once you know what you are looking for, and that he is happy to demonstrate how to his customers at the fish shop.
He stated that another great recipe with urchin is to add it as an ingredient to the filling for a spring roll, along with scallops, spring onion and garden vegetables.
Willie explained that he expects people to catch on to the trend, the chef only buys direct from a trusted group of fishermen and divers.
He said: “They supply me with whatever is in season, scallops, langoustines, crab and so on. The urchins I use are not farmed but wild, so when I have them I want to celebrate this amazing ingredient brought to us by our hard working fishermen. I urge people to try sea urchin if you see it on sale at a local fish shop or on the menu at a restaurant like mine.”