Before July ends, we shouldn’t forget that it’s National Culinary Arts Month! And what better way to celebrate the art of cooking than through food appreciation? Unfortunately, we can’t send you real food, but we can talk about the next best thing: the beautiful foods we see in anime.
There is no denying that food in anime can look absolutely stunning, and maybe even better than the real thing. While there is a growing number of anime featuring all sorts of delicious-looking dishes, we picked out five in particular that we feel deserve some special recognition. Let’s dig in!
Bacon and Eggs — HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE
Let’s start with a simple, savory breakfast from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE. A Studio Ghibli film isn’t complete without its delightfully-detailed foods, and something about this dish seems better than the real thing. This anime film revolves around the story of Sophie, who is cursed and transformed into a 90-year-old woman. She crosses paths with a wizard named Howl, the owner of said “moving castle.” While there, she also meets Howl’s young apprentice Markl and a fire demon named Calcifer.
During Sophie’s first day at the castle, she decides to prepare a breakfast more fulfilling than Markl’s plain bread and cheese. Markl explains that only Howl has power over Calcifer. In spite of this, Sophie finds a way for Calcifer to obey her. In a frying pan, she begins to cook a thick slab of bacon. When Howl arrives, he takes over. He adds a few more slices of the perfect meat into the sizzling pan, as well as a half-dozen eggs. When cooked, they transform beautifully; the rich slices fry into a nice brown and the eggs solidify delicately — sunny side up.
Finally, the hot meal is then accompanied by slices of bread and cups of tea. Almost instantly, Markl shovels his breakfast into his mouth, to Sophie’s dismay. Nevertheless, watching Markl basically inhale his food makes me want what he’s having. This specific breakfast is so visually appealing, enough to have me craving bacon and eggs. (I think Ghibli food in general, though, always looks so appetizing!)
Pork Cutlet Bowl — YURI!!! ON ICE
Although this anime focuses on figure skating, the intensity of the sport is balanced out with more light-hearted elements, including stunning food. When main character Yuri Katsuki finally comes home after five years of school and competitions, his mom doesn’t hesitate to offer him katsudon, a pork cutlet bowl. Early on in the anime, we quickly learn that this is Yuri’s favorite dish — and understandably so.
Moreover, a pork cutlet bowl is pretty self-explanatory. It includes deep-fried breaded pork and scrambled eggs that are smothered in a savory sauce. They are served over a bed of white rice and topped with a handful of peas. We catch a glimpse of this dish in the very first episode. Yuri’s family restaurant has a specialty dish named after him, which, of course, is a pork cutlet bowl. This main dish is served alongside miso soup and hakusai asazuke, pickled cabbage. Considered a Japanese comfort food, it isn’t difficult to see why this meal is Yuri’s favorite.
When Yuri’s coach, Victor Nikiforov, asks to have Yuri’s favorite food in an effort to get to know him better, Victor is obviously served katsudon. The golden sauce over the perfectly fried pork gleams. The green peas, although loosely scattered on top, create a lovely color contrast that makes the dish all the more appetizing. Steam emanates from the wide, inviting bowl that houses this monstrosity, almost reeling you in. Upon enjoying the dish, Victor is so enamored that he even describes it as godly. I personally have never had this dish in real life, but it’s definitely on my bucket list of foods to try. After all, wouldn’t you trust the Victor Nikiforov’s opinion?
Bento Box Lunches — LUCKY STAR
In this fun slice-of-life anime, bento box lunches (or just bento) often make an appearance as we follow the daily lives of Japanese high school students. Out of the four focus characters, however, only three consistently bring a bento box lunch: the purple-haired twins Kagami and Tsukasa Hiiragi and soft-spoken Miyuki Takara.
To put it simply, bento is a common home-packed, single-serving, boxed lunch. It usually comes in a container with dividers, and foods are therefore arranged accordingly. A small variety is showcased in episode seven. The twins explain that depending on who prepares them, they are either quite elaborate or very simple. When Tsukasa makes them, they appear more fulfilling and consists of the following: miniature hamburger steaks, salted asparagus, carrots, eggs, and so on. Kagami admits that she’s not too good of a cook, so when she prepares them, they aren’t as “proper.” An example of a Kagami bento includes grilled salmon, blanched and cut okra, and pickles — and that’s it.
However, everyone seems mesmerized by Miyuki’s bento in particular. She claims that they are just leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, but even then, everything seems so tasty. In her lunch, we see a few onigiri (rice balls), a nice assortment of vegetables, fried eggs filled with eel, and more small, colorful sides. If I had to choose a bento to have every day for lunch, I would definitely pick Miyuki’s. That way, they’d be deliciously different each time, especially since Miyuki’s family dinners always seem so incredible.
(Oh, and what does the lead Konata have for lunch? She famously enjoys a chocolate cornet almost every single day. How healthy!)
Sumire Karaage Roll — FOOD WARS!
In FOOD WARS!, protagonist Soma Yukihira puts a spin on a classic Japanese fried chicken dish. In an effort to compete with a booming karaage chain shop, Soma produces his own recipe. He does this to help revive the suffering Sumire Shopping District. (Interestingly enough, Soma also gets his inspiration from a bento shop owner.)
Nevertheless, FOOD WARS! showcases karaage in the most hypnotizing way, no matter who makes it. In fact, episode 18 opens with beautiful images of the chicken being deep fried to perfection. It seems to shimmer as it sizzles, fresh out of the hot oil. Soma makes the point that the best way to enjoy karaage is right after it has been fried. This, combined with the shopping district’s lively setting, nudges Soma in the direction of creating an on-the-go-friendly version of the delectable chicken.
Soma’s recipe involves chicken thigh meat, which is marinated in a soy sauce and chili pepper mixture, then coated with cornstarch. When the plump meat is deep-fried, it immediately emanates a beautiful aroma that extends throughout the shopping district. The crispy chicken is then embraced by a special thin flour wrap, herbs, and lettuce. It is then topped with a special chili sauce and some black pepper. All in all, Soma’s take on karaage seems to win the hearts of many. As with most foods we see on FOOD WARS!, this dish is definitely something you wish you could get instantly.
Strawberries and Cream Crepe — MISS KOBAYASHI’S DRAGON MAID
For dessert, you can find all sorts of sweets in MISS KOBAYASHI’S DRAGON MAID. This is mostly thanks to the anime’s key dragon characters being introduced to human foods. Easily, sweets become their favorite because of, well, their sweetness and tastiness. They are also often the center of many funny moments. For instance, in episode two, human Kobayashi throws chocolates in the air for young Kanna to catch with her mouth. Kanna never misses, and throughout the anime, we see that she is not a picky eater at all.
One treat that looks especially appetizing is a crepe that Kanna scarfs down on a day of exploring the town with Tohru. The crepe is filled with what seems to be strawberries and whipped cream. The crepe itself seems to be cooked to a perfect golden color and is nicely enveloped in an adorable pink wrapper. As soon as Kanna takes a bite, she glows with pleasure, and she expresses how sweet it is. She says that they are similar to yatagarasu eggs — which, after doing some research, isn’t a human food at all.
A yatagarasu is a three-legged crow that appears in Japanese mythology. This plays into Kanna’s character as a dragon, and ultimately gives us a little insight into the worlds these dragons have lived in. In any case, we may never get to experience the deliciousness of yatagarasu eggs, but that fun-filled crepe is definitely something I could get behind.
Food for Thought
Overall, if there’s anything we’ve learned about food making in anime, it’s that there must be an art to it all. Actually, in both anime and in real life, food is often handled with care for our nourishment and enjoyment. With that being said, let’s take this time to appreciate the culinary arts and those who make sure our meals are both beautiful and delicious.
Are there any more tantalizing foods in anime that you think deserve recognition? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured image courtesy of Studio Ghibli Wiki