The Difference: Zaru Soba vs Mori Soba vs Seiro Soba

When it comes to buckwheat noodles that are served cold or chilled, there are 3 major types in Japan, that is, “Zaru Soba (ざるそば)”, “Mori Soba (もりそば)”, and “Seiro Soba (せいろそば)”.

You may hear about these traditional Japanese Soba dishes, but can you clearly tell the difference between them?

The Difference: Zaru Soba vs Mori Soba vs Seiro Soba

Today, for those who are not much familiar with cold Soba dishes, let me explain how Zaru Soba, Mori Soba, and Seiro Soba differ from one another.

Zaru Soba vs Seiro Soba

Zaru Soba: Soba noodles heaped on the bamboo basket called “Zaru (ざる)”Zaru Soba

Actually, both “Zaru (ざる)” and “Seiro (せいろ)” are the names of traditional Japanese cooking utensils. 

Zaru is a round concave-shaped basket made with thin strips of bamboo, while Seiro is a wooden steamer used in both Japanese cuisine and Chinese cuisine.

In general, the Soba noodles heaped on the bamboo “Zaru” basket are called “Zaru Soba (ざるそば)”, while, as you can guess by now, “Seiro Soba (せいろそば)” refers to the Soba noodles served on the wooden “Seiro” steamer.

Seiro Soba: Soba noodles served on the wooden steamer called “Seiro (せいろ)”Seiro Soba

Originally, the names of Zaru Soba and Seiro Soba derive from the names of cooking utensils used for serving Soba noodles.

However, in modern times, some Soba restaurants in Japan call the Soba noodles heaped on the Seiro steamer “Zaru Soba”, and some others offer the Soba dish named “Seiro Soba” using the Zaru basket.

Zaru Soba vs Mori Soba

Zaru Soba with shredded Nori seaweedZaru Soba with Shredded Nori Seaweed

It is said that the origin of Soba restaurants dates back to the Kanbun era (Kanbun: 1661 to 1673). At the time, people ate buckwheat Soba noodles dipping in a soy-sauce-based sauce like present Zaru Soba and Seiro Soba.

After that, people came to consume Soba noodles with soy-sauce-based broth poured onto them, and this eating manner was called “Bukkake (ぶっかけ)”. By the way, today the simple Soba dish with hot soup is known as “Kake Soba (かけそば)”.

Since the Bukkake method appeared and spread in society, the original method of eating Soba noodles was called “Mori (もり)” to distinguish it from the Bukkake manner.

The meaning of the term “Mori (もり)” is heaping something, so it could be said that Zaru Soba and Seiro Soba are included in Mori Soba. However, unlike Mori Soba, the buckwheat noodles for Zaru Soba are definitely topped with shredded Nori seaweed.

(Reference Page: そばの散歩道)


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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