How to Make Ba-wan, the Soup Dumplings from Spirited Away!

Studio Ghibli films are famous in the otaku world for their beautiful animation - and especially for their mouthwatering food. Spirited Away is full of amazing-looking dishes throughout the film, and there are quite a few that might be new and intriguing to viewers who aren’t so used to Asian cuisine. For example, do you remember the (slightly horrifying) scene where Chihiro’s parents are gorging themselves on food before they turn into pigs? While they are never named in the film, one of the most delicious-looking things they ate while still human were likely large soup dumplings.

Today we are going to teach you how to make these soup dumplings and talk a little about why they were used in Spirited Away - and we promise, you won’t turn into a pig just for making this delicious dish!

Wait, it’s not Japanese food?!

First, it’s important to understand that the soup dumplings that are depicted in Spirited Away are not Japanese food at all. They’re actually a Taiwanese dish called ba-wan, and they’re a kind of Taiwanese meatball. The outer skin is made from sweet potato starch and rice flour, and the fillings are usually pork, mushrooms, and bamboo. These yummy dumplings are then served in spicy sauce and are a combination of many different flavours.

But wait; why are there Taiwanese meatballs in a Ghibli film? Isn’t Spirited Away set in Japan? Aren’t the films made in Japan? The answer is yes, Chihiro and her family are indeed in Japan. But what you might not realise is that many people believe the huge bathhouse and town where most of the film takes place is based on a real place, and that place isn’t in Japan; you guessed it, it’s in Taiwan! Jiufen, Taiwan is about two hours from Taipei, and bears a striking resemblance to the setting of the film. Ba-wan may well be paying homage to this setting, adding in some traditional Taiwanese food even though Chihiro is in Japan. The more you know!

Ba-wan (Taiwanese Soup Dumplings)( 2 servings )

What you need


pork (diced)
75 gm

bamboo shoots (diced)
25 gm

mushrooms (diced)
3 shiitake

fried shallots
1 tbsp

soy sauce
1/2 tbsp

1/2 tbsp

1/4 tsp

Chinese five spice powder
1/4 tsp


rice flour
25 gm

sweet potato starch
75 gm

135 ml


sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp

miso paste
1/2 tbsp

1/2 tbsp

hoisin sauce
2 tbsp

50 ml

1 tbsp

How to Cook It:

  1. 1

    First, saute the shiitake mushrooms in some oil in a pan until fragrant and soft. Add in the bamboo shoots and pork, and fry them until the meat turns white.
  2. 2

    Add the sugar, pepper, Chinese five-spice powder, soy sauce, and fried shallots. Mix everything together in the pan, then remove it from the heat and set the mix to the side.
  3. 3

    Next, make the dough. Combine the flour and water in a small bowl and mix them together until the flour is dissolved. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Take the bowl of batter and place it over (but not inside) the boiling water, and stir it until it thickens.
  4. 4

    Grease two smaller bowls, and scoop half of the dough evenly into the two bowls. Press the dough until it covers the bottoms of the bowls evenly, and add the filling into the middle. Add the other half of the dough to cover the meat and vegetables, then smooth out the top with your fingers.
  5. 5

    Steam the ba-wan on high heat for ten minutes, then let cool for about another ten minutes. Finally, fry the ba-wan in a little oil until they’re lightly brown on all sides and drain them.
  6. 6

    To make the sauce, combine the sweet chilli sauce, miso paste, sugar, and hoisin sauce together. Then mix the cornstarch and water, and add the mixture to the sauce to thicken it. Serve the sauce over the ba-wan and enjoy!


Final Thought

While Chihiro’s parents had to pay a pretty high price for enjoying their soup dumplings, luckily you don’t have to have the same fear. They may not be the easiest food to make, but they’re worth the effort with a bit of practise. It’s also great to get a chance to cook Taiwanese food which you may never have tried otherwise. So next time you’re watching Spirited Away, consider having some soup dumplings along with it!

If you’re interested in reading more about Spirited Away’s connections to the Taiwanese town of Jiufen, check out our article! (linked below).

Have you tried our soup dumpling recipe? How did it turn out? Have you ever made Taiwanese food before? Are you going to try this recipe now? Drop us a comment below!

Intro-700x378 How to Make Ba-wan, the Soup Dumplings from Spirited Away!


Author: Jet Nebula

Living the dream in Tokyo, where you can find me working at a theme café catered towards women. When I’m not writing for Honey’s, I’m working on original dystopian science fiction or blogging about Tokyo’s trendy coffee scene. I spend my free time in Harajuku and Shibuya wearing alternative Japanese street fashion. I love video games, J-rock, tattoos, and Star Wars.

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