Today, Akemi and I took drive down to Steveston Village.  For those of you who don’t know (and, really, given what loyal fans you are, I imagine that number is very small), Steveston was the location we used to for the SG-1 episode Nightwalkers.  And I’m sure we weren’t the first production to make use of its small town look. The place has a quaintness about it that suggests downhome comfort, old time values and, of course, alien invasion.

Anyway, on this day, no alien invasion.  And sadly, no fish taco for me either.  I had a hankering for a snack (to fill that post-lunch, pre-dinner stretch) so I walked down to Pajo’s, a little shack on the water that serves fish ‘n chip, burgers, and various seafood treats.  I stepped up to the counter and waited while the young lady across the way oversaw the assembly of a large take-out order.  The kitchen was buzzing with youthful energy as the staff floured, deep-fried, and served up the orders.  I waited.  “Seventy-three!”she shouted, handing off the order and then, before I could place an order for a fish taco (I’d decided to go with the halibut), turned her back to me and continued to oversee the action in the kitchen.  I waited.  She watched.  I waited. She watched. Then, she received another order, set it down on the counter and shouted “Seventy-two!”.  Customer #72 picked up his food and, as I prepared to order my fish taco, the young lady again turned her back to me.  But rather than oversee the action in the kitchen, she had far more pressing concerns.  Namely, she had to chat with another young lady who was casually spooning mayonnaise out of an enormous plastic container.  I pulled out a twenty (money talks, I figured), leaned forward, and waited.  She turned – “Seventy-one!” – and, before I could utter a word, she’d turned her back to me and was overseeing the action in the kitchen once again.

Ah, the luxury of being so busy you can’t be bothered to provide fair to middling customer service.  Good for them.

Pajo’s. Their motto is : We’ll get to you when we get to you. Maybe.

By this point, I’d lost my appetite for Pajo’s fish tacos, and Pajos in general, and so we headed over the the wharf to check out the fresh fish the boats had brought in that day.

We were walking around, perusing the fresh fish and seafood, when we came upon these delectable little treasures:

Sea urchins!

If you’ve ever had them before, you can be excused for considering them – well, mighty disgusting.  The fact is, the sea urchin that is served at most Japanese restaurants is often packaged and tastes very different from its fresh, live counterpart.  Most restaurant uni tends to possess a funkiness that my writing partner once described as “redolent of the sea…right by an open sewer main”.  Fresh, live uni, on the other hand, is sweet, creamy, and utterly delicious.  Occasionally, one of Vancouver’s top Japanese restaurants serves up the latter version – at $35 a pop.  Or, if you’re lucky, you can snag one at your local fish market for $10 a pop.  OR, you can go to Steveston and pick up three for $10.  Which is exactly what we did.

Got em!

One of the drawbacks of purchasing your own sea urchin is having to clean them yourself.  Fortunately, it’s not an overly complicated process.  Consult the handy chart –

Simple, no?

When we arrived home, I got to work –

Step #1: Put on a pair of gloves, then make a preliminary incision at the soft center of the underside. Cut up, then around in a circular pattern, then remove the shell.
Step #2: Use a small spoon to scoop out the delicate orange gonads (yep, you read correctly) lining the inside walls. The dark liquid and other stuff is undigested seaweed so you’re going to want to avoid it.
Step #3: Rinse in saltwater and set aside for use.

I’ve had sea urchin a number of different ways – sauteed, tempura-style, with pasta – but my favorite is by far the simplest.

Step #4: Serve them on sushi rice. Side of avocado optional.

Sashimi-style is still the best.

Need I remind everyone that our Supermovie of the Week Club reconvenes on Monday.  Up for discussion: The Phantom (1996).  As always, I’m sure our resident film critic, Cookie Monster, will have plenty to say on the subject.

Finally… 

Hey, PBMom!  Great to hear Patrick is on the mend.

And welcome back Adam (aka Major D. Davis).  Congrats and best of luck at USC!

19 thoughts on “June 23, 2012: No fish taco for you! And Preparing Sea Urchin at Home!

  1. @Joe:

    Consult the handy chart:

    I’m trying to figure out what Toilet Paper and and Eye Chart have to do with sea urchin preparation (step 5)…

    Looks good though!

  2. Ah, the luxury of being so busy you can’t be bothered to provide fair to middling customer service

    well it does say on Pajo’s website “Stellar, just-like-family, customer service”, so consider yourself family!

  3. @PBMom gosh so sorry your son was sick that is SCARY. Of course if he googles and find you said “rectal temp” you will be the one needing an ER. 🙂 ((hugs))
    And I agree of Cunningham’s character, very fun on Falling Skies. 🙂

    @ Major Davis — HUH? How could anyone forget a regular even when they take a break?

    On sea urchins… my high school French teacher back in the stone age told us about being somewhere in the south of France and being served sea urchin, live, at the table, cut and scooped out. She said she nearly threw up thinking about it, but then tasted it and decided it was worth watching them do it. I think I’ll pass though.

  4. My dad and I went to sushi again last Thursday as we found out this new place gets fresh shipments in every Thursday. Last time we were there, it was a Wednesday and they were out of uni, so we decided to make sure that never happened again.

    We had yet to have it at this new place, and boy, we were pleasantly surprised! Much softer and supple than some other places, but also much more flavorful! What’s interesting is, they put the quail egg underneath one of the flaps of meat instead of presented right on top, like most every sushi place I’ve ever been to in my life. I thought it odd, but it made sense after eating it, that there, the moisture of the yolk can better spread evenly through your whole mouth with flavor of the uni as you chewed. It was a new sensation, but it was so much better.

    Apparently the head sushi chef there is Korean and a lot of his rolls reflect his Korean sushi influence as they have stuff there with combinations of fish I’ve never seen before. My favorite new one so far is called the orange blossom and as you might have guessed, is served flat, in a circular formation and is wrapped in Salmon. And let me tell you, they cut their salmon THICK! I can’t remember everything that’s in it, but it is my new favorite roll there.

    Man, I may have to go again this week! I normally try to keep it to once a month or so, by I’m getting myself all worked up just talking about it!

    -Mike A.

  5. @PBMom:

    How is Patrick doing today? Sending prayers your way and hoping he’s better soon.

  6. There are few things more annoying that crappy customer service. One of them is WILLFULLY crappy service like you were getting (and I’ve gotten too many times.) If she has time to chat with her co-worker, she has time to serve you. Of course, she perhaps just absolutely hates her job, in which case maybe she’s trying to get fired? Anyway, that shouldn’t be your problem. And why were the orders being counted DOWN? Don’t those things usually go UP in sequence?

    JeffW: I have to wonder about the toilet paper thing too. Are you supposed to soak something up with it?

  7. That does look good, Joe. I’ll have to say, since I’ve been on this blog, I have really expanded my food horizons.

    @Major Davis: Welcome back! You can’t forget a regular even if they’ve been gone awhile. Good luck in LA.

    Have a great day, all!!!

    Lisa R

  8. I have no objections to eating gonads of animals, but they would have to be the best tasting food in the world for me to bother with that much preparation. Kudos to you for having the ability and the patience to go through that much labor for what seems a fairly small return.
    Forgive me for a short chortle of glee at your sufferings at Pajo’s. It is something of a relief to realize that north of the border suffers from some of the same service malaise we do down here. It is amazing, given that a simple acknowlegement of your existance would probably had given the server plenty of time to get around taking your order. I suppose every generation laments the degragation of service, caring, and general niceness found in society. But it does seem to be true. Here is hoping your next outing goes much smoother.

  9. You are one brave man Mr. Mallozzi….

    The most adventurous I’ve been is eating a piece of salmon at Pike Place market in Seattle (I don’t like seafood at all).. and here you are eating urchin gonads. You have my admiration.

    And thank you everyone (and Joe) for the warm welcome back. I’ve missed you guys a lot, it’s good to be back.

    Thanks so much,
    Major D. Davis

    1. @BillieO2 🙂 I’m going to have to hire you as my PR person. (BTW everyone, that is my Twitter feed for the business @ALeashAbove Web site is still in the process of being created. Forms, policies, procedures, prices, the “why you should hire me”, etc. — all that takes time to figure out.

  10. Yeah, that entry helped me drop a pound of weight, I’m sure. Patrick has no fever today. Woo-hoo! A tad cranky this afternoon, but he’s been mostly up in the chair in the livingroom all day (except for the short trip to Walmart to get more purified water for his humidifier. I expect if things continue this way, he might go back to a half-day of school on Wed (this is year-round autism school), and then we see what happens with Tropical Storm Debby in the Gulf and where that goes. Just when I got my pool cleaned from last week’s flood. I tried to shovel some of debris out so the water will flow out better under the fence instead of into our pool if we get this storm (or even the rains from it). Thanks for all your good thoughts.

    Sorry you had a bad experience at that restaurant. Customer service has to be spot-on all the time because if it is not, you can lose not only 1 customer but others, too. I’ll remember that going in my business.

  11. @Debra How is your sister? Patrick won’t worry about “rectal temp.” He is nonverbal and can’t read. Unless they find an autism treatment like in The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon (yes, Joe, I FINALLY READ IT).

  12. “Rinse with salt water”. Do I add salt to tap water then rise the sea urchin orange stuff?

  13. I’d end up with a saltwater tank and sea urchins as pets if I bought live ones. I do like finding sea urchin spines on the beach, they make nice necklaces.

  14. @Das – I bet Todd the Wraith eats gonads…

    @Joe. What is your…if you were on death row and had to have… absolutely favorite meal?

  15. Can’t say I know much about Sea Urchin, guessing it tasted good though? Anyway a quick google search revealed that the thing has eyes, and can chew through rock apparently.

    Seems like such a complex fish/thing for what it is.

  16. Thanks Mallozzi! I now see why ultra-fresh is preferable to ‘funky’ when it comes to sea urchins… if you’re eating a critter’s reproductive dooberries, you most certainly don’t want ’em when they’ve had a few days to get icky. Nooo indeed.

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