What are Oboro Kombu, Tororo Kombu, and Shio Kombu?

“Kombu (昆布)” is the Japanese word for edible kelp seaweed, from which Japanese soup stock “Dashi (出汁)”, the base for various dishes in Japanese cuisine, is often made.

In Japan, Kombu is not only prepared for making Dashi but a range of Japanese processed foods, from candies to accompaniments for rice, the staple of the Japanese, are made with the seaweed.

And representative examples of such processed kelp products include “Tororo Kombu (とろろ昆布)”, “Oboro Kombu (おぼろ昆布)”, and “Shio Kombu (塩昆布)”.

The Difference: Tororo Kombu vs Oboro Kombu vs Shio Kombu

In fact, we like eating such processed seaweed with a hot bowl of white rice, but do you know how Tororo Kombu, Oboro Kombu, and Shio Kombu are different from one another?

For people who have never heard of these Japanese processed kelp products, today let me talk about what they exactly are.

Tororo Kombu (とろろ昆布)

Tororo Kombu

Tororo Kombu is a common processed food in Japan which is made by thinly shaving the kelp block that has 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.

Tororo Kombu Soup

The thread-like seaweed flakes, Tororo Kombu is most often used as the main ingredient in soup. Once the shaved kelp is soaked in hot water, it becomes mushy like grated yum, which is why Tororo Kombu has the word “Tororo (とろろ)” meaning grated yum in its name.

In addition to the use in soup, some Japanese like making “Onigiri (おにぎり)” rice balls with the kelp flakes, instead of a dry sheet of Nori seaweed. Actually, Tokoro Kombu pairs well with almost any food as a topping, and if you want to know how to use the kelp shavings in detail, this article will help.

Oboro Kombu (おぼろ昆布)

Oboro KombuImage: Amazon.co.jp

Oboro Kombu is a processed seaweed similar to Tororo Kombu in that it is made by shaving dried kelp. As for the primary difference, Tororo Kombu is usually produced by the machine and comes in thread form, while Oboro Kombu are very thin, dry sheets of kelp, which are made by artisan’s hand labor.

Source: Youtube 職人の技! 手すき おぼろ昆布

In general, the quality of kelp used for Oboro Kombu is high, and as you can see in the video, to make Oboro Kombu, the artisan shaves off thin layers from the surface of the high-quality kelp.

Accordingly, Oboro Kombu is usually more expensive than Tororo Kombu. But as far as the usage goes, there is not much difference between Oboro Kombu and Tororo Kombu.

Shio Kombu (塩昆布)

Shio Kombu

Lastly, Shio Kombu is a processed kelp seaweed quite different from Tororo Kombu and Oboro Kombu. Shio Kombu are thin short strips of simmered kelp with a salt coating. Although the majority of Tororo Kombu and Oboro Kombu are sold unseasoned, the strips of Shio Kombu are simmered down with soy sauce and salt.

Rice with Shio Kombu

Hence, unlike Tororo Kombu and Oboro Kombu, the salted kelp Shio Kombu has some moisture. The strips are soft crunchy and can be eaten as they are but pretty salty. So we typically eat the salted kelp with plain white rice.

Vegetable Salad with Shio Kombu

Additionally, Shio Kombu goes especially well with fresh vegetables since it contains lots of umami and salt. For in-depth information on how to use Shio Kombu, this article will help.

(Reference Pages: Wikipedia とろろ昆布, 塩昆布, Konbumura )


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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