Sea urchin
Sea urchin
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Other Names

French: oursin


The sea urchin forms a large ball that resembles a hedgehog. Its spines, about 2 cm (1”) long in the most common varieties, can reach 10-15 cm (4-6”) when the animal feels threatened. It loves living in sheltered bays, but seeks above all very cold water with high salinity.  


The sea urchin’s globular “test” is made up of calcareous plates with two openings: the anus, in the center among the spines; and the mouth, known as “Aristotle’s lantern,” found on the underside, having five teeth but no spines. This is where the edible parts of the animal are found: the five sex glands, namely the coral and the liquid that surrounds them. The five glands form five “tongues,” arranged in a star shape. This is why the words “coral” and “tongue” are used to refer to the same thing, though in fact we should speak of the “gonad.”


I discovered the sea urchin at Michel Rostand’s restaurant in Paris. Served as a little appetizer, it had a quail egg hidden inside. Rostand explained, “Sea urchin has the briny flavor of the sea… a little cloud to awaken the taste buds!” 


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