Wakame vs. Kombu (Kelp): Edible Seaweed in Japan
As you may know, seaweed is an indispensable part of Japanese food culture, and especially, wakame and kombu, also known as kelp, have been widely consumed in Japan since the old days.
Today, supported by the Japanese food boom, these two varieties of edible seaweed have also gained recognition overseas, used by restaurant chefs and many home cooks.
Wakame vs. Kombu (Kelp)
So today, from the point of view of us Japanese, let me talk about how wakame and kombu differ in usage and nutritional values.
Wakame and kombu are most commonly used in miso soup in Japanese cuisine, but we utilize them differently.
Kombu is prepared for making soup stock or dashi (出汁) and is usually not eaten itself.
In other words, in miso soup, kombu or kelp is used only for its umami.
In contrast, wakame can be the main ingredient of miso soup.
For example, the one with wakame and tofu/onions is one of Japan’s most-loved miso soup varieties.
But unlike kombu, wakame doesn’t have plenty of umami components, so it is not suitable for making dashi, not used for it.
Other than miso soup, we commonly use wakame in Sunomono (酢の物: vinegared dishes), Itamemono (炒め物: stir-fries), Nimono (煮物: soy sauce-flavored simmered dishes), and in salads with fresh vegetables.
On the other hand, kombu or kelp can be seen in Tsukemono pickles for its umami, often eaten in Tsukudani form.
Also, Tororo Kombu (dried kelp shavings) and Shio Kombu (salted kelp), processed from kelp, are foods familiar to us Japanese.
Wakame and kombu are not only used in cooking, but they are also available in snack form in Japan.
The quintessential example of snack foods made of wakame is Kuki Wakame.
Meanwhile, long-time favorite kelp snacks and candies include Su-Konbu, Oshaburi Kombu, and Kombu Ame.
Lastly, let’s check the nutritional values.
Based on the article ワカメ on Japanese Wikipedia, the calories of raw wakame per 100 grams are 45 kcal, and it is a good source of dietary fibers, alginic acid, and fucoidan.
You can expect health benefits from that, such as improving cholesterol levels in the blood and preventing arteriosclerosis and myocardial infarction.
Meanwhile, according to the article コンブ dried kelp (Rishiri Kombu) has 138 kcal per 100 grams.
This seaweed contains lots of dietary fibers, iron, calcium, and glutamic acid, known as an umami component, and is a rich source of iodine.