I had never heard of this movie until my boys purchased it on Amazon. They have long been fans of Studio Ghibli movies though I have never watched any of the movies with them.
However, the first time they watched it, both commented that I should suggest it to my foodie movie group. I largely ignored that suggestion until I was reading through a list of top twenty-five films that food lovers have to watch. Okay. I was convinced and offered to host it for our foodie, movie-watching group this month.
When I finally sat down to watch the movie, sources - and my boys - were correct. The food is animated in amazing detail. Everything from the onigiri (rice balls) to the konpeito (sugar candies) to the ishi-yaki-imo (stone-roasted sweet potatoes) made my mouth water.
The food in Spirited Away is animated with intricate detail. Some of it is Japanese: Chihiro noshes on onigiri (rice balls) with her parents; Lin feeds konpeito (traditional, brightly colored Japanese sugar candies) to the animate soot balls; and even ishi-yaki-imo (stone-roasted sweet potatoes) appear on screen. Food is also powerful and magical. Haku warns Chihiro that she must keep eating the spirit world's food or she won't be able to stay in the world. Think reverse Persephone! And, it's a magical cake that restores Haku and No-Face to their pre-cursed forms.
But because the setting is fashioned after an actual town in Taiwan, I set about researching traditional Taiwanese foods and was intrigued by Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian, a braised beef soup. This dish didn't appear in the movie, but everyone in my household was grateful when it appeared on our table.
- 1 to 1-1/2 pound piece of beef
- 1 Tablespoon Chinese five spice
- 1 red onion, peeled and thickly sliced
- 2-inch knob of fresh ginger, halved
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup wine (I used leftover red wine)
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tablespoons chili bean paste
- 1 Tablespoon organic dark brown sugar
- Also needed more beef stock, noodles, baby bok choy, and egg (I used quail eggs)
Bring your beef stock to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of the braising liquid from the meat.
In another large pot, bring water to a boil. Blanch the bok choy and remove. Add the noodles and cook until just done. Remove noodles and rinse briefly under hot water. Poach your eggs in water and remove for serving.
To serve, add noodles to individual serving bowls. Top with sliced beef, bok choy, and egg. Ladle in the broth and serve immediately.