Studio Ghibli has created some of the most beautiful animated films the medium has ever known. The works of Hayo Miyazaki are ripe with endearing characters, emotional plots, and breathtaking designs. Surprisingly, though, the films are also known for their food.
Pretty much all Studio Ghibli food looks positively decadent. Everything from steaming bowls of noodles and inviting cups of tea to sizzling meats and delectable desserts can be found across many a characters’ table. Those looking to sample these delicious dishes will find that many of them are deceptively simple. In fact, many of them are easy to find, cook, and enjoy!
Updated on April 19th, 2022 by Stacie Rook: Studio Ghibli food is used to accomplish many goals, whether it’s to inform viewers of the setting, provide a sense of community, or reveal details about a character. It comes as no surprise, then, that many Ghibli fans have tried their hands at replicating the movie’s dishes, and recipes can be found via many blogs like Sylvia Wakana and recreatefoodrecipes.
Konpeitō (Spirited Away)
Some of the best non-human Studio Ghibli characters, the soot sprites, appear in both My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. Their personalities are shown more in the latter, where they work in the boiler room of Yubaba’s bathhouse, rewarded for their work with handfuls of konpeitō.
Konpeitō are colorful, star-like clusters of crunchy candy that originate from Portugal, but are also found in Japan. Made primarily from a mix of sugar and water, it’s easy to see why the super sweet morsels get the soot sprites so excited.
Herring And Pumpkin Pie (Kiki’s Delivery Service)
Of all the deliveries that Kiki makes in Kiki’s Delivery Service, none is more inviting than the herring and pumpkin pie she transports for a customer who bakes it as a birthday gift for her granddaughter.
Upon the delivery though, the young granddaughter reacts ungratefully to the present, in a moment that is particularly upsetting given all the time and effort Kiki put into ensuring its arrival on time. The scene does serve to show Kiki’s personality in contrast to the girl she brings the pie to, though.
Nabeyaki Udon (Whisper Of The Heart)
While much of Whisper of the Heart sees protagonist Shizuku busy developing her writing skills, she does have some moments of downtime, as seen when she visits Shirō and the two eat Nabeyaki Udon together.
A soup dish served in a special clay pot, Nabeyaki Udon contains thick Udon noodles, vegetables, and eggs, with seafood like shrimp also often being added. The version that Shizuku and Shirō eat seems to be wholly vegetable-based, but the vibrance of the vegetables makes it shine.
Chocolate Cake (Kiki’s Delivery Service)
After all of her hard work delivering the herring pie, Kiki later returns to the old lady who hired her for the job and is met with a surprise; a chocolate cake iced with her name and silhouette.
It’s a thank you for the way that Kiki went above and beyond in her service, and the kind gesture has a profound effect on the young witch, who has struggled to feel truly at home since she moved to town. This scene shows that Kiki’s hard work has not gone unnoticed, and motivates her greatly.
Onigiri (Spirited Away)
Given that eating food in the spirit world is what turned her parents into pigs, it’s no surprise that Chihiro is initially reluctant to eat the onigiri that Haku brings her in Spirited Away.
When she does, though, she’s overwhelmed by all that she’s been through, and Haku is there to comfort her as she eats. Onigiri are rice balls often shaped into triangles and filled with a variety of fillings. They are sometimes also wrapped in nori, the seaweed used in sushi. Their simplicity are in direct opposition to the overwhelming buffet that took Chihiro’s parents from her.
Aji Fry (From Up on Poppy Hill)
Japanese cuisine involves various fried dishes, but the one seen in From Up on Poppy Hill, cooked by Umi, is aji fry, which is deep-fried mackerel coated in breadcrumbs. Given the film’s coastal setting and the importance of the sea in the story, the use of seafood in Umi’s dishes makes sense.
Given that From Up On Poppy Hill is one of the Studio Ghibli movies based on a manga, these visual cues are very important to the story being told and add another, unspoken layer to the narrative.
Sakuma Drops (Grave of the Fireflies)
Grave of the Fireflies is perhaps the most heartwrenching film in Miyazaki’s library, and if there’s one symbol of the movie that captures its message, it’s Setsuko’s Sakuma Drops, used in moments of joy and sorrow to equally great effect.
In spite of its simple appearance, this tin of hard candy is a common delight in Japan. Having existed since 1903, Sakuma Drops or similar fruit-flavored hard candy can easily be bought or ordered online for those wishing for a taste of the sweet treat.
Bento Boxes (My Neighbor Totoro)
Bento boxes are often prepared as lunches for loved ones, as seen in the movie when Satsuki makes one for little sister Mei. They can be as simple or as complicated as one wants and can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, flavors, and themes.
The bento presented in My Neighbor Totoro is composed of edamame, rice, Japanese plum, and shishamo (a small Japanese river fish). Though some of the ingredients can be difficult to locate outside of Japan, many specialty grocery stores will have just the thing.
Vegetable Soup (Castle in the Sky)
Vegetable soups are common across a number of cultures, but there’s something extremely enticing about the nimono from Castle in the Sky. A stew prepared with dashi broth and winter vegetables, nimono is a hearty and comforting dish perfect for a cold night.
As with bento boxes, this soup can be prepared in a multitude of ways, adapted with ingredients that one has to hand. In the movie, Sheeta prepares a huge vat of the soup in a moment of quiet between all of the movie’s action.
Sponge Cake (Spirited Away)
While many of the dishes in Studio Ghibli are taken directly from Japanese cuisine, the sponge cake from Spirited Away has more uncertain origins. Zeniba shares this cake and a number of other desserts with Chihiro and No-Face when they come to visit her.
This perfect-looking sponge cake seems ideal for pairing with a cup of coffee or tea, or for sating the appetite of one of the best spirits from Spirited Away, No-Face. Zeniba’s careful spread of dishes also sets her apart from the overt opulence that surrounds her twin sister Yubaba at the bathhouse.
Bacon and Eggs (Howl’s Moving Castle)
Nothing says comfort like fried breakfast food and the bacon and eggs served in Howl’s Moving Castle are a hearty way to start the day. Cooked by Sophie and Howl over Calcifer’s tamed flame, this simple dish made by some of the movie’s most likable characters is tinged with magic.
The secret to replicating its look in the movie is to use thick-cut bacon, and aside from that only eggs are needed for a complete meal. In the movie, freshly sliced bread is also served on the side, though this is not essential.
Spaghetti (Porco Rosso)
Bringing a taste of Italy to the Ghibli movie set in and around that country, Porco Rosso sees its protagonist enjoy a great helping of spaghetti bolognese after fending off pirates.
In its simplest form, spaghetti bolognese is pasta accompanied with a meat sauce, which can be replicated without the need for too many ingredients. Food is used in Porco Rosso to help reinforce the movie’s setting, and it makes the movie stand apart from other Ghibli stories.
The sandwich in Ponyo contains ham, lettuce, and cheese, and as Sōsuke is eating it, Ponyo steals a piece, an action which kickstarts her love for ham in any form, and also becomes the basis for one of Ponyo’s best quotes in the movie.
Food in Ponyo acts as a way for the titular character to become more connected to both Sōsuke and the human world, even through a meal as simple as a sandwich.
Pancakes (Kiki’s Delivery Service)
The pancakes in Kiki’s Delivery Service are simple and delicious-looking. Kiki serves hers topped with butter, alongside some sausage and a few small tomatoes. Having shopped for the ingredients and equipment needed to cook for herself, Kiki’s homemade breakfast is reflective of her newfound independence.
Living above a bakery, food is a central part of the visuals in Kiki’s Delivery Service, providing a warm and welcoming place for Kiki to return to even when her business is not at its best.
Ramen is a fixture in many Japanese films and series, but the version seen in Ponyo can be very simply replicated. With essentially four ingredients consisting of store-bought instant ramen, green onion, boiled egg, and Ponyo’s beloved ham, it’s a recipe everyone can master.
Food is often used in Miyazaki movies to bring comfort to a character, and hot ramen on a rainy day definitely does the trick for Ponyo and Sōsuke. The ingredients might be simple, but the dish offers a taste of home that anyone would love.
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