Oboro Kombu vs Tororo Kombu vs Shio Kombu : What is the difference?

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 taken.

Kombu is not only prepared for making Dashi, but there also exist a variety of processed foods made with the edible seaweed in Japan, from candies like “Kombu Ame (昆布飴)” to accompaniments for the staple food of the Japanese.

As for the latter type, representative examples include “Tororo Kombu (とろろ昆布)”, “Oboro Kombu (おぼろ昆布)”, and “Shio Kombu (塩昆布)”.

The Difference between Tororo Kombu, Oboro Kombu, and Shio Kombu

We Japanese sometimes eat those processed seaweed with steamed plain rice, but do you know how Tororo Kombu, Oboro Kombu, and Shio Kombu are different from one another? For those who have never heard of these Japanese processed kelp, today I want to explain the difference between them.

Tororo Kombu (とろろ昆布)

Tororo Kombu (Amazon.com) is a common Japanese processed food consisting solely of edible kelp seaweed. They are thin Kombu shavings like threads.

The thread-form dry seaweed, Tororo Kombu is most often used as a main ingredient for soups in Japan. When the shaved Kombu is rehydrated, it becomes mushy like grated yum. This is why it has the name, “Tororo Kombu” literally meaning grated yum kelp.

In addition to the use for soups, some Japanese like making “Onigiri (おにぎり)” rice balls with the dry Kombu shavings, instead of Nori seaweed, as well as putting them on cold tofu or vegetable salads as a topping. If you want to know how to use Tororo Kombu in detail, this article will help.

Oboro Kombu (おぼろ昆布)

Image : Amazon.co.jp

Oboro Kombu is a processed kelp seaweed similar to Tororo Kombu. Tororo Kombu is produced by machine and comes in thread form, while Oboro Kombu are very thin sheets of kelp seaweed made by artisan’s hand labor.

Source : Youtube 職人の技! 手すき おぼろ昆布

The quality of the edible kelp used for producing Oboro Kombu is generally high as compared to Tororo Kombu, and as you can see from the above movie, Oboro Kombu is made by artisan’s shaving off a thin layer from the surface of the high-quality kelp.

Accordingly, Oboro Kombu is usually more expensive than Tororo Kombu. As for the usage, there is no big difference between Oboro Kombu and Tororo Kombu.

Shio Kombu (塩昆布)

Shio Kombu (Amazon.com) is a Japanese processed seaweed quite difference from Tororo Kombu and Oboro Kombu. Shio Kombu are simmered kelp with a salt coating. Although, in the producing process, Tororo Kombu and Oboro Kombu are basically unseasoned, the fine short strips of Shio Kombu are flavored with soy sauce.

When kelp is simmered in soy sauce and dried, some salt in the cooked kelp change into a white crystalline powder on the surface. Additionally, the strips of Shio Kombu are sometimes coated with salt.

Unlike Tororo Kombu and Oboro Kombu, Shio Kombu has some moisture. Besides, the fine short strips are crunchy in texture and can be eaten as they are, though they are pretty salty. Therefore, we typically eat Shio Kombu strips with plain white rice.

In addition to the use as an accompaniment for rice, Shio Kombu goes really well with fresh vegetables since it contains lots of umami and salt. If you want to know more about Shio Kombu, this post will help.

(Reference pages of this article : Wikipedia とろろ昆布, 塩昆布, Konbumura )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. I want to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures and trivia.

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