What are Oboro Kombu, Tororo Kombu, and Shio Kombu?
“Kombu (昆布)” is the Japanese word that refers to edible kelp, from which we often make “dashi (出汁)” soup stock, the base for many Japanese dishes.
The seaweed is an essential ingredient in Washoku, and a range of Japanese foods, from snacks to rice accompaniments, are made with it.
Regarding processed kelp, there are three products you should know, which are Tororo Kombu, Oboro Kombu, and Shio Kombu.
Tororo Kombu vs. Oboro Kombu vs. Shio Kombu
We Japanese like to eat such processed seaweed with a bowl of white rice, but how do Tororo Kombu, Oboro Kombu, and Shio Kombu differ?
For those who have never heard of them, today let me talk about what they exactly are.
Tororo Kombu (とろろ昆布)
Tororo Kombu is a traditional Japanese food made by thinly shaving the kelp block that’s been softened in vinegar and dried.
As you can see in the photo above, it consists of dry long thin thread-like strips of kelp.
The seaweed flakes are most often used in soups in Japan. Once you pour hot water onto them, they become mushy like grated yum.
And that is why Tororo Kombu has the word “Tororo (とろろ)” meaning “grated yum” in its name.
As another usage, Japanese people sometimes make onigiri rice balls with it instead of using nori sheets.
Also, the shaved kelp can be a topping for many dishes, which include udon, soba, vegetable salad, tofu, and natto.
Oboro Kombu (おぼろ昆布)
Oboro Kombu is a processed food similar to Tororo Kombu in that it consists of dry shaved kelp.
While Tororo Kombu is usually produced by the machine and looks like fluffy threads,
Source: Youtube 職人の技! 手すき おぼろ昆布
Oboro Kombu is made by artisan’s skillful hand labor with high-grade kelp (as seen in the video above) and comes in thin sheets.
Accordingly, it is expensive compared to Tororo Kombu. But as far as the usage is concerned, there is not much difference between the two.
Shio Kombu (塩昆布)
Shio Kombu is a processed food quite different from the above two, consisting of thin short strips of simmered kelp with a salt coating.
Tororo Kombu and Oboro Kombu are usually unseasoned, but Shio Kombu is simmered down with soy sauce and salt.
Shio Kombu holds some moisture. The shreds are soft, crunchy, and can be eaten as they are.
But the salted kelp is pretty salty, and we often eat it with plain white rice.
For its salty taste and umami, Shio Kombu can be used in many dishes, including pasta, salad, and egg omelet (tamagoyaki).
It goes perfectly with fresh vegetables, and you can easily make Asazuke pickles with it.