Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chasing Sea Urchin - Video

What do you get combining the culinarily curious Anthony Bourdain with the surreal silliness of Monty Python? Why, The 99 Cent Chef's latest video adventure. You can take the Chef's title literally this time; it's a movable feast. Tag along for the most unusual dining experience you will ever have -- including a slapstick chase on the pier, a detour through a raucous game room, and a heart-rending goodbye in the crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean.

I'm keeping it local - Quality Seafood Market's live shellfish and fresh fish emporium is located on the Redondo Beach Pier - a short drive south of Los Angeles Int'l airport. I often tag along with my wife to visit her parents, whose condo is within fly-casting distance.

The horseshoe-shaped Redondo Beach Pier reaches into the South Bay. At one end are fishing boats loaded with mesh cages for lobster and crab; at the other end is a restaurant and shopping plaza. Local fishermen cast their lines off the pier, just a few paces from a bustling fish market and open-air counters for dining on fresh seafood.

The Redondo Beach Pier's Quality Seafood Market offers fresh live locally-caught sea urchin at $6.99 a pound. The whole place makes for quite a scene: roiling water in metal bins loaded with delicacies like live Pismo Beach clams, huge local lobsters, locally caught conch, and the ebony starbursts of the prickly sea urchin.

The ominous shell of the sea urchin resembles the deadly end of a Medieval Spiked Iron Ball Mace. Don't worry about injury to the fishmonger who takes your order and fishes one out -- a sea urchin's spikes are not sharp. The creature is quickly dispatched by a few whacks with a metal spoon, breaking open a cavity that exposes the prized and delicate roe inside - five fat veins of bright orange gonads that are salty, creamy and sweet (this "Uni" can be the most expensive item on a sushi restaurant menu). I recommend getting a medium to large urchin - they seem to contain twice as much roe as the smaller ones.

It's a five-minute wait as the delicacy is drained and cleaned, then presented with a spoon inside, resting against the black jagged rim of the urchin bowl.
My urchin cost just over $5, for the freshest sushi- quality lobes of roe you will ever have.

And you can get inexpensive beer on tap or in large bottles at a counter behind you. Loaded down, just weave your way to an open-air table through throngs of mallet-pounding locals (and Japanese tourists) feasting on fresh-boiled crab legs, split buttered lobster and plump jumbo shrimp. A Mariachi band was playing for tips the Sunday afternoon I was there.

Sea urchin is exotic, so be prepared for stares as parents point your way and their kids look on, open- mouthed. Even you may be taken aback when you notice that the sea urchin's black spikes wave and swivel in circles -- like it is still alive! Don't worry, once the shell is cracked, the creature is gone -- like the detached tail of a lizard, the spikes still wiggle.

The faint of heart may need to proceed with caution (the video includes a brief sea urchin-cleaning scene). But, if you have gutted a fish or boiled a live lobster, then continue on. And if you have eaten fresh clams or oysters, you have eaten a "live" critter.

So dive into my latest video for a tasty sampling of the strange, spiny, sweetly delicious sea urchin. And if you are a fan of  Monty Python's Flying Circus then you will appreciate the absurdist lengths The 99 Cent Chef goes to - chasing a runaway Sea Urchin for lunch!

Chasing Sea Urchin - Video

Play it here.The video runs 4 minutes 47 seconds.
Quality Seafood Market
130 S. International Boardwalk
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Phone: 310) 374-2382 or 310) 372-6408
Click here to view or embed from youtube.
99 thanks to Amy for extra camerawork!

3 comments:

Right Brain Thinker said...

Five bucks and you let it get away? LOL My son and I got a big kick out of this video!

Shelley said...

Sea Urchin, food based on a dare.

K. Gill said...

That was both funny and informative. I enjoyed that :)

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