Our California Premium uni is a mild yellow color and softer texture than California Gold, with the same great taste and freshness. Our uni is world famous, having been featured in magazines like Vogue and Wolfgang Puck's television show. The sea urchins from which uni come from are handpicked by local divers who deliver it to us fresh daily. We process it within 24 hours, giving it the highest freshness and quality.
Sea Urchins are bottom feeding “echinoderms” that are found in every ocean around the world. The urchins that we process, Strongylocentrotus franciscanus range from dark blackish purple to red in color. They are covered with short to long spines. The diameter of the shell can get up to 6 inches. The average weight of a sea urchin is one pound. California Sea Urchins are found off the coast usually in about 50 feet of water in kelp beds.
Sea Urchins are harvested for their internal roe—“uni” in Japanese—that is considered an aphrodisiac in some cultures. Uni is known as a delicacy in Japan and sushi bars worldwide because of its sweet flavor and succulent texture that melts in your mouth. The exact technique of processing uni is a trade secret that has been perfected over the last 20 years by Catalina Offshore Products. In fact, the business started with owner Dave Rudie diving for sea urchins & seaweed. Sushi bars from across the country know that the best uni sushi comes from Southern California, and Catalina Offshore Products. We keep our product in coolers that are maintained at 32 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit until it is packed and shipped daily. We pack in insulated containers with gel-ice for the best quality. Wooden trays house the strips of uni for a traditional Japanese presentation.
Uni Grades: The gold and premium grades of uni are always fresh, and the vana is frozen unless otherwise requested to be fresh. All uni tastes good and can be eaten raw.
California Gold: Bright yellow/orange, firm texture (formerly A-Grade)
California Premium: Mild yellow color, softer pieces (formerly B-Grade)
Vana: Dark color, melting soft, also known as Vana (formerly C-Grade)
San Diego Sea Urchin Divers
A group of ten San Diego divers harvest California sea urchin by hand in fertile kelp beds less than two miles off the San Diego coastline.
Urchin Diver harvesting on the ocean floor
Sea urchin fishing can be a hazardous occupation, and only a select number of permits are released. Divers must battle unreliable conditions in rocky coastal areas; as well as rely on air from either a heavy scuba tank or traditional hookah rig - a hose attached to an air compressor far above on the boat. To pluck the spiny urchins off the rocky sea bottom, divers use a hand rake and carry a net for collection.
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