Purple sea urchins (uni) are currently swarming on the west coast, from San Francisco all the way up to northern Washington. According to a recent AP article, millions of the spiky, squat spheroids have decimated kelp beds and left delicate coastal ecosystems denuded and in risk of collapse.
We don’t need much of an excuse to eat urchin roe, so we drove down to Humboldt County to forage what uni we could and help save the west coast.
We timed our visit to coincide with the new moon/spring tide, and used Google Maps to select Baker Beach as a likely hunting ground. Here’s what happened when we got there:
(click for larger images)
Baker Beach has easy access to rocky sections.
On the ocean side of some large rocks we found our old friends, gooseneck barnacles.
This odd lump is a chiton…
…which is apparently edible, but the tiny amount of meat on them is very tough.
“I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”
We didn’t invite little Prufrock to our party.
Out on the tide-exposed rocks we found our spiny prey.
Urchins like to jam themselves into crevices to elude predators.
We came well equipped, with grabbers and scrapers.
Aya chose her sweater to match. She thinks of things like that.
After much cleaning and prepping, we feasted.
Washed in white wine, the raw uni roe sits atop hot rice and salty nori.
And we couldn’t help but invite some goosenecks to the party. Always a special treat.
Next time we will take our snorkels and wet-suits and go out to deeper water to gather the big fat ones from the ocean floor.
We spied these beautiful 12th Century frescoes in the Prado.
We imagine the original conversation probably went something like this: Client: “And up there, above the right arch, we want a bear.” Artist: “A bear. Good choice. No problem.” C: “You’re familiar with bears?” A: “Bears? Oh, yes. My father and uncle used to dress up in a bear skin to frighten the kids at festivals. No problem there.” C: “Okay, but it has to look like a real bear.” A: “Of course.” C: “Not like two men in a bear skin!” A: “Ha-haa! No! Of course. No problem. And on the left?” C: “On the left we want an elephant.” A: “An…?” C: “Elephant.” A: “What, like a horse?” C: “No, an elephant.” A: “Elephant. Yes. No, that’s what I thought you said. Elephant. Good.” C: “Do you know what an elephant is?” A: “Oh, yes. No problem.” C: “You’ve seen one before?” A: “An elephant? Yes. No problem.” C: “You keep saying ‘no problem’…” A: “Yeah, no problem. An elephant… Like a horse.” C: “What?” A: “What?”
From Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four big islands, we took a ferry out to the small chain of islands called Goto for a week of camping. You may remember it from the Kamigoto surfing post a while ago.
Driving onto car ferries is one of our favourite parts of travel. It’s as close as we’ll get in our lifetime to putting a little private flying ship inside a giant interplanetary craft and taking a trip across the stars to explore other worlds.
Sasebo is a busy Naval port, and we saw many unusual ships on the way out of port. (Click on the gallery below to see larger images).
Sailors on deck of a Japanese Navy ship.
Japanese Navy ships.
Leaving Sasebo port, with many Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier.
Bizarre ship we passed on the way out of Sasebo.
Small Navy cutter on the way out of Sasebo.
One of the US Navy patrol boats showed off their speed and maneuverability by catching air from the ferry’s big wake.
Looked like a lot of fun. Note the big machine gun on the bow!
Goto Islands appeared out of grey, rainy skies.
The local weather was actually quite lovely, changing frequently.
We followed whatever road seemed interesting, often ending up in situations that were unexpected.
Eventually we found our way back to the coastal roads and went looking for a seafood snack. Click through to see what we found.
Tonkotsu ramen is a specialty from Fukuoka, Kyushu. It is famous for its thick, pale broth made from pork bones and its rich flavour. Back in another life, Keith used to refer to it as “dog breath ramen” when passing by the kitchen vents in Kyoto. (He doesn’t call it that any more, as you’ll read in a post to come later.)
The chef at Gonta Nagahama-Style Ramen makes it his daily mission to serve the best, most authentic tonkotsu ramen in south Osaka. He wouldn’t let us take a photo of his broth pot, but we can tell you it was filled with big bones and murky liquid and had clearly been cooking for a long time.
Click through to see the chef make his signature dish, served with diced green onions, ginger and a couple of slices of fatty pork. Continue reading “Tonkotsu Ramen”
The local surf club on Nakatoorijima is really the hobby of one very friendly fellow, Kyo Nagai. He could not have been more helpful in getting Keith set up with a board and even came along for an hour of surfing on small but glassy beach break.
He also posted two nice pics of Keith’s surfing adventure on his surf blog. The first action photo is Keith, and the second a local hotshot named Mori Junior.