I can still remember the first time I had a craving for onigiri. It was after watching a scene in Spirited Away in which not much happens, other than a young girl biting into a rice ball and weeping by the side of the road. Yet that moment has been seared into my memory for years, giving me a lifelong habit of gathering plastic-wrapped onigiri into my arms anytime I pass a Japanese convenience store.
From the rice ball in Spirited Away to the breakfast scene in Howl’s Moving Castle, food has always played a key role in Studio Ghibli movies. Many of these appetising scenes cherish the modest comforts of enjoying a good meal. Here’s how you can prepare these dishes at home!
1. Bacon and eggs in Howl’s Moving Castle
While the recipe for breakfast in Howl’s Moving Castle looks relatively simple, it’s perfected with huge and juicy slabs of bacon. As you can see in the video, you have to slice the bacon in thick portions, rather than crunchy or wafer-thin strips. Likewise, in the movie, Markl tears into the bacon the same way he might devour a steak. Sure, you might not have a fire demon named Calcifer to tease while you cook, but the classic combination of bacon and eggs in the morning never gets old!
2. Nabeyaki udon in Whisper of the Heart
In the Studio Ghibli movie Whisper of the Heart, one of the most memorable food scenes is when the old man Nishi consoles Shizuku with nabeyaki udon when she’s feeling down. After watching the recipe above, we can see why it worked!
Nabeyaki udon consists of thick and chewy udon noodles in dashi soup, and it’s traditionally served in a clay pot in Japan. The noodles are topped with long green onions, carrots, egg, bite-sized portions of chicken thighs, shiitake mushrooms, fish cake, and shrimp tempura. But of course, you can always improvise with other vegetables and experiment with other toppings that you have at home.
3. Bento boxes in My Neighbour Totoro
Sending off your relatives to school or work with a bento box — a Japanese-style packed lunch of rice, meat, and vegetables — is a common practice in Japan. More than the nourishment they provide, these lunchtime meals show that you care for the person.
In My Neighbour Totoro, for instance, Satsuki often prepares bento boxes for her father and her sister Mei. For your own bento box, you can be as creative as you like, shaping the rice into cute shapes and sizes as well.
4. Rice balls in Spirited Away
If there’s a crowning food moment in Studio Ghibli that made our stomachs grumble, it’s the onigiri in Spirited Away. The first time we see Chihiro break down from the stress of being whisked away to a strange and ghostly place, she’s huddled over and clutching her knees near the side of the road. Haku has to offer her rice balls to keep her from feeling sick, and it’s the nostalgic simplicity of the meal that finally lets her cry it out.
5. Herring and pumpkin pot pie in Kiki’s Delivery Service
When a young witch-in-training has to work at a bakery to make ends meet, she finds herself doing a “Witch Delivery Business” by flying on her broomstick and transporting goods to the townsfolk. One of these packages is a herring and pumpkin pot pie that an old lady baked for her granddaughter’s birthday.
To make this pie at home, you can use any kind of white fish like tilapia, mackerel, or cod. After following the instructions in the video to make the filling, you can roll out the puff pastry dough and use a knife to create the fish pattern for your pie, resulting in a glistening and golden crust once it’s baked.
If the recipe above is any indication though, the flavour of the herring and olives on a pie might not be for everyone. For this reason, we won’t blame you for ditching the fish altogether and going with an old-fashioned pumpkin pie instead!
6. Ham ramen in Ponyo
How can we not include our all-time favourite meal from Japan? As we were all college students once upon a time, ramen is probably one of the easiest dishes to prepare on this list. Just add a few slices of ham to match the one in Ponyo! And on rainy days, this Japanese comfort food is perfect for slurping while you marathon Studio Ghibli movies on Netflix.
7. Siberia cake in The Wind Rises
Once a popular dessert in Japan in the early 1990s, Siberia cake had already faded into obscurity by the end of World War II, until The Wind Rises — originally Hayao Miyazaki’s last Studio Ghibli film after declaring his “retirement” in 2013 — brought it back into the Japanese food scene. Today, Siberia cake is arranged with one to three layers of red bean jelly, sandwiched between two to four slices of castella cake.
All you need is milk, all-purpose flour, unsalted butter, sugar, gelatin, and red bean paste to follow the recipe for this fluffy sponge cake. Be sure to pair it with a cup of tea or coffee for a sweet afternoon delight!
8. Kiki’s chocolate cake in Kiki’s Delivery Service
Any moment that involves food in a Studio Ghibli movie is going to look appetising, but this dessert truly takes the cake! Following the recipe above, it doesn’t look any different from a regular chocolate cake that you can bake at home. The only challenging part might be piping the cream frosting in the shape of Kiki and her cat Jiji. Then again, that’s what makes the baking process so fun!
Pouring such careful detail into cinematic depictions of food is one of the many trademarks of a Studio Ghibli movie. Ultimately, it’s the warm and affectionate touch from Miyazaki that makes the mundane seem magical.
Featured image credit: Howl’s Moving Castle | IMDb.