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Sea urchins go by many names in Vietnam, be it ‘nhum’ (its name in Vietnamese), or ‘cau gai’ (literally spiky sphere) or ‘nhim bien’ (literally sea hedgehog), and can be found among the rocks a few meters under the water. The best ones are caught on days with no moon, because the little spiky boys venture out to find food less when the moon shines, which makes them “thinner” and therefore less fleshy.
The urchins in Khanh Hoa are the size of a fist and sometimes boast spikes as long as 10 centimeters. October is also the season when urchins are full of eggs. In Vietnam, Quang Ngai, Khanh Hoa and Phu Quoc Island are the places to find urchins.
The urchin’s flesh is edible even uncooked and is a popular protein source among fishermen.
Urchins can also be quickly cooked just by throwing them into a fire and seasoning them with what is most available in the sea, saltwater.
In bygone, urchins were offered to the king for its reputation as a natural form of viagra.
The good news spread like wildfire. The food once known and eaten only by sea dwellers became a seasonal delicacy, available for a limited time of the year.
According to gourmets, grilled in fat with scallions is the best way to enjoy urchins as this method retains all the features that make them so desired.
Photos by Mr.True
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