Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sagittarius Bento

The sun is currently travelling through Sagittarius, the exuberant zodiac sign of international travel, cultural pursuits, philosophy, and high-spirited celebration.

Lucy Ash writes in her excellent cookbook A Taste of Astrology that the foods of this jovial sign are "sweet, fragrant, spicy and strong" and include cloves, asparagus, figs, mushrooms, sage, chestnuts, game, pears,  tropical fruits, and curries.

I'd like to suggest an additional edible metaphor for generous, warm, and adventurous Sagittarius: the dumpling. Culinary world travelers, dumplings have journeyed over vast territories, carrying flavors and delight across borders.

Along Silk Road trade paths, Central Asian mantu, Korean mandu and Turkish manti mingled and offered warming joy. A carefully prepared dumpling embodies craft, pleasure, and the sharing of international influences--all quite Sagittarian themes!

Chilled by newly sharpened December winds, we recently went in search of dumpling comfort at Sichuan Village in Chantilly, VA. Near Dulles International Airport, it is often filled with hungry groups of Chinese tourists just touched down in the D.C. area.

On this visit, there were delicate crystal shrimp dumplings with pretty crimped edges, puffy, tender green vegetable buns, ginger-chicken half-moons, and a selection of excellent pickles. Here are crisp zig-zag cut cucumber pickles drenched in red pepper oil:

Sichuan pickles, pungent and salty:

Crystal shrimp dumplings:

Ginger chicken dumplings:

Salt and pepper squid:

The Sagittarius bento features dumpling varieties from Sichuan Village, along with asparagus, watercress, beech mushrooms, sage, chestnuts, yellow peppers, fresh figs, and an exotic pink Indian coconut sweet with pistachios (photographed on a print of the Turkish Piri Reis map from 1513). Here's to international culinary exploration, exchange, and inspiration!


Lil'chan said...

Nice story. Newer heard about the Astrology meaning of food :) Thanks for sharing. And your bento looks yummy ;) Emjoy it ^-^

hapa bento said...

You have a gift, Bentobird. I could read your writings all day long. "in search of dumpling comfort..." Omg, fabulous.

Thank you for having a blog.

The astrology tie-in to food is inspired. Gr

bentobird said...

Hi Lil'chan! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your always lovely comments--I really appreciate them!

bentobird said...

Dear hapa bento,
Oh my, that's an amazing thing to read--thank you! And thank you for sharing your gifts, which were so inspiring to me that I started to bento and blog! Our bento community embodies some amazing qualities of creativity, kind generosity of spirit and multicultural appreciation--thank you for being such a valuable and integral part of this!

Lia Chen said...

Enjoy reading your writing very much Bentobird! Delicious bento and thanks for sharing the amazing food pictures.

bentobird said...

Hi Lia!
So glad you enjoyed this post...thank you so much for visiting. Your holiday themed bentos have been really glowing and beautiful, by the way!

tatabonita said...

Astrology for food? Sounds so interesting :D. Btw, the dumplings make me drool :D~~~~ Cute bento! :D

bentobird said...

Hi there tatabonita!
Thanks for coming by and for your nice comments! Yes, these dumplings were little bites of happiness! Have a great day :)

sherimiya said...

Me too, I always spend quite a long time here because I get caught up in the adventure. Plus, the photo shoot of the food is so striking! I love spicy Sichuan food, and the hot oil is making my mouth water. Then, I have to go back and look at the bento again, starting all over! Thank you for the lovely diversion tonight, Bentobird! Very beautiful, all of it :)

bentobird said...

Dear Sheri,
So lovely to read your comment:) Food and cuisine is totally an adventure and diversion for me, and its so fun to try to capture this in words and images...Thank you for travelling with me!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I really enjoyed your story and your beautiful bento! The Sichuan food looks delicious, my husband and I love spicy food. :)

bentobird said...

Hello Susan!
So glad you stopped by and shared this Sichuan journey! It's really one of our favorite cuisines and we feel lucky to have some authentic Sichuan chefs at a few local restaurants. I enjoy your joyous bento and cooking blog, by the way:)