Studio Ghibli is known for creating beautiful, thought-provoking works of animation featuring topics not traditionally explored in movies aimed at children: environmentalism, war, feminism. The movies are rooted in Japanese culture and history and while always thoughtful, they never feel preachy.
They also feature some mouthwatering food. Seriously—watch Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away and just try not to get hungry. Below, we’ve compiled a few of the most memorable Studio Ghibli dishes, so scroll on for the most delicious animated ramen, breakfasts and fish stews ever drawn.
Food is often an expression of love in Ghibli films, and the mouth-watering ramen from Ponyo is no exception. Look at that ham! Characters offering or giving food to each other is a common occurrence in all Ghibli movies, and offering fish-out-of-water Ponyo a bowl of ramen is no exception.
Probably the most iconic of all Ghibli meals, simply because it actually kickstarts the plot. When Chihiro and her family take a wrong turn, they end up in a magical world full of spirits and delicious buffets. Unfortunately, the strangeness of their circumstances does not stop her parents from literally pigging out at an empty restaurant stall, leading to them becoming actual pigs. But who can blame them? Even the steam looks good.
Meals in When Marnie Was There are a way to bridge the gap between two characters, whether that’s an emotional gap, or a (spoiler alert) metaphysical gap, such as the one between Marnie and Anna. Although we don’t know it at the time, this scene, in which Marnie offers a plate of thumbprint cookies to Anna on her rowboat, is between a grandmother and her granddaughter, with the grandma feeding her granddaughter once again (hearkening back to memories Anna doesn’t even know she has).
To quote Leslie Knope: “Why would anyone ever eat anything besides breakfast food?” Looking at the eggs and bacon heroine Sophie cooks up with the help of fire demon Calcifer, I have to agree. What makes scenes like this one special is that Sophie is the only one, besides Howl, capable of controlling Calcifer. When you find out later (spoiler alert) that Calcifer is hiding Howl’s heart, it’s a little bit of foreshadowing for the pair’s eventual relationship.
In a movie full of food (Kiki does work at a bakery after all), this fish pie stands out for its uniqueness. Kiki helps a grandma make this for her granddaughter’s party—only for it to be snubbed cruelly by the granddaughter, once again setting up a divide between Kiki and her peers. It’s also one of the catalysts for Kiki losing her powers temporarily after she gets stuck flying around in the rain and misses Tombo’s party. It’s also memorable because, frankly, the combination sounds bizarre.
Again, in terms of food, Spirited Away is probably the most significant Ghibli movie, and there are plenty of food moments to talk about, like the steam buns Chihiro and Lin share or the smorgasbord the workers offer No-Face.
After her parents are turned into pigs, Haku gives Chihiro a rice ball to comfort her. In a world that’s constantly shifting its rules—and one so different from her regular life—it’s a tiny comfort that sets up the emotional payoff the two characters later experience in the climax of the movie.
My Neighbor Totoro is a story in which the darkness is right at the edges. Despite the cuteness of the titular Totoro, as well as main characters Mei and Satsuki, there are hints of sadness woven throughout regarding their mother’s long-term illness and stay in the hospital. This scene, where the pair pack bento boxes, is sweet while still hinting at the same depth: the girls clearly know how to take care of themselves and are skilled at things average children aren’t, including cooking.
Such is the power of Ghibli that they managed to cause a real-life food trend. Siberia, which are triangular cakes sandwiched over a sweet bean jelly, have come back into fashion thanks to their inclusion in The Wind Rises. You can now find them in bakeries throughout Japan, so grab one before it loses its trendiness.
Porco Rosso is one of the few Ghibli films that is actually tied to a specific time and location. While most use fantastical settings or anachronistic inventions to prevent the films from being too specific, Porco Rosso wholly embraces it, which is perhaps why the food in the film (while delicious) is a little more simplistic—still, who wouldn’t want that plate of bolognese?
This rice porridge is memorable thanks to the two characters who share the meal: Ashitaka, one of the main characters, and Jiki-bo, whose motives and true alignment are hidden with the help of a great-looking bowl of congee. Beneath the simple exterior of okayu lies a depth of flavor, just as there are hidden depths to Jiki-bo.
Ashley Burnett is a magazine editor living in California. Her work has appeared on HelloGiggles, The Billfold and more. You can reach her via her website.