Have you ever thought about what makes the rice in sushi aromatic? And what gives that crunchy texture to your sushi? If yes, then the answer is aroma comes from Kombu and crunch comes from Nori. If you’re a fan of sushi, then you’ve probably heard of both Kombu and Nori.
The two sea vegetables differ majorly due to their size and source. Apart from that, they also differ in areas such as their growing environment, cultivation, and their culinary uses. Kombu vs Nori also differs in their taste and texture.
Read on to know more about Kombu vs Nori covering their uses, origin, and source, how both are grown, etc.
Difference in Origin and Source
Kombu grows in the kelp forests under the sea. These forests are found in temperate waters and can be deep or shallow.
Kombu grows on rocks in the ocean and can be found attached to them. Nori, on the other hand, is a red algae that is found in abundance near rocky shores all over the world.
Kombu cannot withstand high levels of salt and is mostly found in the Pacific Ocean. On the other hand, Nori grows in colder waters and has a higher tolerance to salt.
LEARN MORE: Is Sushi Dairy Free?
How Do Kombu and Nori Look Different?
Kombu typically grows up to 12 feet long while Nori is only about an inch wide.
Kombu is a dark brown to black colored seaweed that can grow up to two meters in length. It has a tough and leathery texture. The thallus (or body) of most kelp is composed of flat or leaf-like structures known as blades.
The stipes are elongated stem-like structures that give rise to the blades. The holdfast, a root-like structure, attaches the kelp to the ocean’s substrate.
Pneumatocysts (gas-filled bladders) grow at the base of the blades of American species such as Nereocystis lueteana to keep the kelp blades close to the surface.
Kombu is available dried in complete sheets or little pieces, according to your needs. In contrast to Nori, it is quite thick and has a dry texture that softens rapidly when soaked in water. It also has a very dark tint, with some kombu being dark-grey in tone.
On the contrary, Nori is a type of red algae or Porphyra. Porphyra blades can range in shape from round to linear, and in length from a few centimeters to over a meter. The color varies as well, ranging from rose-pink in buried species to mottled reds, yellows, browns, and greens.
Nori is marketed dry in all of the forms we’ve discussed, but it has a crisper texture and a lighter color, particularly when contrasted to kombu. Unlike kombu, nori should never be immersed in water; otherwise, its flavor and texture would be ruined.
LEARN MORE: Is Nori Seaweed Vegetarian?
Difference in Their Culinary Uses
Kombu is a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine and is used in making dashi (a type of soup stock) and kimchi (a Korean dish made from fermented vegetables). It is also used as a flavoring agent or to tenderize meat. Kombu can be eaten raw or cooked.
The dry leaves and sheets of kombu are known as Kiri. Kombu can also be found in powder form which can be used to make tea. Along with that, Kombu is used to season the rice used in sushi by boiling the two together.
Nori is most commonly used as a wrapping for sushi, temaki-zushi (hand roll sushi), and onigiri. It is also used to make soup, seasoning, and chips. Some people also eat it as a snack or sometimes use it in different salads. Nori is also used in ramen and different types of noodles as a topping.
LEARN MORE: What Is Nori Sauce?
Kombu Vs Nori: Taste and Texture
Kombu has a mild, umami taste, while nori has a slightly sweet taste with a hint of bitterness. Kombu is also a little chewy, while nori is crispy and has a slightly rubbery texture.
The flavor and taste of kombu are more pronounced when it is used to make dashi. When kombu is simmered in water, it releases glutamic acid, which is responsible for its umami taste. Noritake is a popular kombu variety that is used to make dashi.
Nori is a great addition to dishes that need some crunch, such as salads. It can also be roasted or baked to give it a crunchy texture.
LEARN MORE: What Is Yaki Nori?
Kombu Vs Nori: Differences in Growth and Cultivation
Kombu grows by attaching itself to rocks on the sea. Kombu is mostly found in the Western Pacific Ocean and in the North Atlantic Ocean. Kombu can also be found near Scotland, Norway, and Iceland.
Since kombu grows best in cold waters with plenty of sunlight exposure whereas nori thrives under high humidity levels with some light exposure; their farming methods differ as well.
Kombu is usually attached to a rope or net that’s placed vertically into the ocean so it can hang down freely. The kombu is then harvested by cutting it off the rope or net after it has grown to a certain size.
Kombu is grown in three different methods namely the vertical culture method, the horizontal culture method, and the mixed culture method.
Nori is mainly cultivated in East Asia, specifically in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. However, there are also Nori farms present in Italy, Chile, and Brittany (France).
Nori is also grown by attaching it to rocks in shallow water using a rope. It is then harvested after it has turned green and become paper-thin. It is also grown in three ways that are, floating system, semi-floating system, and fixed nets.
LEARN MORE: Is Nori Gluten-free?
Difference in Nutrition Value
Kombu and Nori mainly differ in their iodine content. Kombu has a high iodine content while Nori has a low iodine content. But iodine content of kombu varies depending on the species.
Kombu is a nutrition powerhouse from the sea. Zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, iron, and calcium are among the other minerals found in kombu. Kombu also provides vitamins such as folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, riboflavin, and vitamin B5.
In opposition, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc are just a few of the minerals found in nori. Nori has up to ten times the calcium content of milk!
Aside from that, nori is high in vitamins. It contains A, B, C, D, E, and K vitamins, as well as niacin, folic acid, and taurine. And because it includes a high quantity of vitamin C, the bioavailability of its considerable iron content is enhanced.
LEARN MORE: What Is Nori in Ramen?
Do Kombu and Nori Have Different Health Benefits?
Both seaweeds are packed with nutrition and provide the human body with immense health benefits in their own ways but differently.
Having Kombu gives us the following health benefits-
- Improves digestion by breaking down heavy starch. The glutamic acid in this seaweed gives it a delightfully savory flavor, while the fiber aids digestion in general.
- Iron in Kombu is essential for bodily function since it is involved in the formation of hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood as well as providing healthy cells, skin, hair, and nails.
- Kombu not only contains iodine, but it has the most iodine of any seaweed, making it one of the most iodine-rich meals on the planet. Iodine is essential in our diets for healthy hormone synthesis and thyroid function.
- Helps prevent cancer due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.
- And lastly, kombu is a natural detoxifier that helps remove heavy metals from the body.
Here are the health benefits we get from Nori-
- Nori is an excellent plant-based source of iodine, which is essential for thyroid health.
- Nori contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-three fatty acid that’s beneficial for heart health.
- Nori is a good source of plant-based protein, which is essential for tissue repair, hormone production, and enzyme function.
- Nori is a good source of fiber, which is essential for digestive health.
- It is believed to rejuvenate the body hence it is given to women after three weeks of childbirth in Korea.
- It is a natural detoxifier.
LEARN MORE: What Is Shredded Nori?
After this detailed blog post on Kombu vs Nori, you must have got an idea of how these two seaweeds are used, their health benefits, etc. which will help you decide which one to pick based on your health needs, culinary needs, or any other.
Both kombu and nori offer a wide range of health benefits, so it’s really up to you to decide which one is perfect for you.