Sea Urchin Roe: Nama Uni vs Tsubu Uni vs Neri Uni
Known as sea urchin in English, “Uni (雲丹, うに)” is one of the representative Japanese food delicacies or “Chinmi (珍味)” that has been a favorite in Japan for a long time. In sushi restaurants, the roe is usually served fresh, but fresh raw sea urchin is not so often used at home.
Instead, at supermarkets and groceries in Japan, processed Uni paste can be bought and those products are not that pricy compared to fresh Uni grains since they are not pure 100% sea urchin but blended.
The Difference: Nama Uni vs Tsubu Uni vs Neri Uni
Actually, what I bought this time is that kind of product and called “Tsubu Uni (粒うに)”. But how does Tsubu Uni differ from “Neri Uni (練りうに)”, another blended sea urchin product that I introduced in the past article? Further, first of all, do you know the meaning of “Nama Uni (生うに)”?
For people who don’t know much about Japanese sea urchin roe, today let me explain the difference between these 3 types of Uni.
Nama Uni (生うに)
First off, Nama Uni is the word for fresh raw sea urchin as “Nama (生)” means raw in Japanese. As you know, the raw sea urchin roe, Nama Uni is most often used in sushi and is expensive since it is 100 percent sea urchin.
Tsubu Uni (粒うに)
Unlike Nama Uni, as I mentioned above, Tsubu Uni isn’t pure sea urchin but blended. It is a processed Uni product made mostly with salted sea urchin or “Shio Uni (塩うに)” and usually comes in a glass jar.
Specifically, the Shio Uni content of this Tsubu Uni is 90%, and the other ingredients consist of ethyl alcohol, sugar, seasoning (including amino acids), and polysaccharide thickener.
As “Tsubu (粒)” means grain in Japanese, Tsubu Uni is not a complete paste but the original texture of Uni is somewhat left. The salted sea urchin goes perfectly with plain white rice and Japanese drinkers like to eat it with sake or beer.
Neri Uni (練りうに)
Lastly, about Neri Uni. As with Tsubu Uni, Neri Uni is a blended sea urchin that usually comes in a glass bottle or jar.
But the salted sea urchin content of this Neri Uni is lower than the Tsubu Uni shown above, 65%. In addition to salted sea urchin, this Neri Uni also contains wheat flour, sugar, egg yolk, ethyl alcohol, milk protein, amino acids, starch adhesive, and colors.
As you can see in the photo, Neri Uni is an orangish smooth paste with a more artificial feel than Tsubu Uni. By the way, the literal meaning of Neri Uni is kneaded sea urchin.
So Neri Uni is usually less expensive than Tsubu Uni, but how to enjoy them are basically the same. Incidentally, both Neri Uni and Tsubu Uni are produced and sold by some Japanese food companies, but Neri Uni is more common and can often be seen in supermarkets.