Sea Urchin Roe: Nama Uni vs. Tsubu Uni vs. Neri Uni

Uni (雲丹, うに), known as sea urchin in English, is one of the Japanese food delicacies called Chinmi (珍味) that has been a long-time favorite in Japan.

Although it is usually served fresh in sushi restaurants, raw sea urchin roe is not so often used at home.

Instead, processed Uni pastes are available at supermarkets and in groceries.

Those products are not that pricy compared to fresh Uni grains because they are not pure 100 percent sea urchin but blended with other ingredients.

Nama Uni vs. Tsubu Uni vs. Neri Uni

What I picked up this time is that kind of product called Tsubu Uni (粒うに).

But how does it differ from Neri Uni (練りうに), another blended sea urchin product that I introduced in this article before?

Further, first and foremost, do you know what Nama Uni (生うに) is?

For those who don’t know much about Japanese sea urchins, today, let me explain how the three differ from one another.

Nama Uni (生うに)

Nama Uni Fresh Raw Sea Urchin Roe

First off, Nama Uni is the word for fresh sea urchin as Nama (生) means raw in Japanese.

This one is most often used in sushi dishes and is expensive since it consists of 100 percent sea urchin roe.

Tsubu Uni (粒うに)

Tsubu Uni

Unlike Nama Uni, Tsubu Uni isn’t pure sea urchin but blended with other ingredients.

This one is a processed Uni product made mostly with salted sea urchin or Shio Uni (塩うに) and usually comes in a glass jar.

Tsubu Uni Ingredients and Nutrition Facts

The Shio Uni content of this Tsubu Uni is 90 percent.

The other ingredients consist of ethyl alcohol, sugar, amino acid seasoning, and polysaccharide thickener.

Tsubu Uni Salted Sea Urchin Paste

As Tsubu (粒) means grain in Japanese, Tsubu Uni is not a complete paste, and the original texture of Uni is somewhat left.

The salted sea urchin goes perfectly on a warm bowl of white rice. Also, Japanese drinkers like to eat it with alcoholic drinks like sake or beer. 

Neri Uni (練りうに)

Neri Uni

As with Tsubu Uni, Neri Uni is a blended sea urchin that typically comes in a glass bottle or jar. 

Neri Uni ingredients

But the Shio Uni content is usually lower than Tsubu Uni. This one shows 65 percent.

In addition to salted sea urchin, it contains wheat flour, sugar, egg yolk, ethyl alcohol, milk protein, amino acids, starch adhesive, and colors.

As you can see in the photo above, Neri Uni is a smooth orangish paste with a more artificial feel than Tsubu Uni.

By the way, the literal meaning of Neri Uni is kneaded sea urchin. 

Neri Uni Japanese Sea Urchin Paste

Neri Uni is inexpensive compared to Tsubu Uni, but how to enjoy them is the same.

It is more common than Tsubu Uni, and you can more often see it in supermarkets.


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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