An aphrodisiac in Japan for thousands of years, sea urchin, or uni, as the Japanese call it, rose to popularity in North America in the late twentieth century.
Contrary to popular belief, the portion of the sea urchin sold and served as one of the ocean’s most opulent treasures is not the roe. It is the gonads of this hermaphrodite sea creature that are scooped out of the urchin’s spiny shell in five custard-like, golden sections.
From a nutritional standpoint, sea urchin is one of the most prominent culinary sources of anandamide, a cannabinoid neurotransmitter. Does this mean that eating uni will produce a similar effect to ingesting marijuana? Probably not, but it is possible that uni activates the dopamine system in the brain, humans’ built in “reward circuit.”
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