Spirited Away Bento + Napa Cabbage Roll Recipe


Noriben is a portmanteau of the words nori and bento. It is a very simple style of bento, consisting of rice (flavoured or otherwise) topped with a layer of nori. To go with my noriben, I made sides of Chinese leaves / napa cabbage rolls (top right) and Korean style tofu fritters (bottom right). Below is my recipe for napa cabbage rolls. Tofu fritters recipe here.

No Face is a character from Studio Ghibli’s film Spirited Away. He is a lone spirit in the form of a masked figure who befriends Sen/Chihiro in the film. I cut nori and peeled radish to create the facial details, adhered using a little mayo. The mask was cut out from egg white.

Here is the recipe for the napa cabbage rolls. They are elegant and flavourful. I made mine vegan:


Ingredients (makes 6-8 rolls):

  • 1/4 block of tofu, drained and julienned
  • 1/3 of a medium sized carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 3 large shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted in 1 cup of water, then sliced
  • 2 white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 wood ear mushroom, reconstituted and julienned
  • 1/2 cup of shimeji mushrooms, ends discarded
  • 6-8 large napa cabbage leaves, depending on how many large leaves there are
  • 2 small napa cabbage leaves, julienned
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • a small knob of ginger, minced
  • 1/2 stalk of spring onion / scallion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of spring onion (green bits only), sliced into six long thin strips
  • 1/2 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp of soy sauce
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • a pinch of cracked black pepper


1. Marinate tofu sticks in 2 tsp of soy sauce and cracked black pepper. Then sauté them in a little sesame oil in a skillet until slightly browned. Set aside in a mixing bowl.

2. Sauté shallots and garlic in a little oil until aromatic but not brown. Add napa cabbage strips, mushrooms, carrot, chilli flakes, and ginger and sauté for about a minute until soft. Set aside in mixing bowl. Add chopped spring onions, salt, and white pepper to mixture in mixing bowl and mix well.

3. In a large skillet, boil a little water on medium heat. The water should be enough to submerge the napa cabbage leaves. Add a few drops of oil and a few twists of salt. Bring to a boil. Add napa cabage into water and cover skillet with lid. Simmer for a minute. Sieve cabbage to drain. Then rinse leaves under cold water and pat dry with clean tea towel.

4. On a clean work top, arrange a small heap of filling on the white stem of the napa cabbage leaf. Roll the leaf up, starting from the white stem and work your way up to the green leafy tips. Secure by tying spring onion / scallion strips around the cabbage roll. Repeat until all the leaves are used up.

5. In a bamboo steamer, steam cabbage rolls for about 10 minutes.

You can serve it with a gravy made from cabbage water, shiitake water, vegetable stock, Shaoxing rice wine, and a little soy sauce, thickened with cornstarch. Alternatively, serve on its own or with chilli sauce. I love it with sweet chilli sauce. 🙂


Winnie xx



14 thoughts on “Spirited Away Bento + Napa Cabbage Roll Recipe

  1. What a multitude of ingredients and a lovely end result. The nappa cabbage looks like parcels awaiting delivery. I would love to dig in. Are those mushrooms? they look like some nicely grilled steak. Thanks for sharing this and have a wonderful day!

  2. Wow you are so creative! Those cabbage rolls look awesome, looks similar to what my granny made when I was a kid, so I definitely must try! Thanks for sharing!

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