What's for Dinner? Get Ideas from the Chinese Zodiac!

What's for Dinner? Get Ideas from the Chinese Zodiac!
"What's for dinner?" It's a question you ask yourself every day. And with so many choices of cuisine in today's world, how could it ever be possible to find yourself in a food rut?

If you're a creature of habit, you might view trying something new as quite a commitment. What if you end up wishing you'd just had "the usual"? Next time you're thinking of take-out or a night on the town, mix up the menu using the Chinese zodiac as your guide. See what your Animal Sign says about the flavorful fare most likely to satisfy your palate!

(Don't know your Chinese Animal Sign? Visit Astrology.com's Chinese Astrology section and learn for yourself!)

Spanish tapas appeal to the sophisticated and social Rat. Ceviche, queso, calamari, and olives delight the senses, while course after course of colorful, bite-sized plates create the perfect ambiance. Eating is an activity for reconnecting with old friends and charming new ones. A pitcher of sangria on the table only improves the atmosphere!

Hungry as an Ox? Whether your appetite is big or small, your meal should stick to your ribs. Leave the frou-frou fixings for fussier types and find your nearest Ethiopian restaurant. If you can finish your traditional East African meal, you'll be full for a week.

Red-blooded Tigers should dip a paw into the sea for a sashimi treat. Cooked food is for tabbies! If your idea of sushi is a California roll, it's time to venture into a wilder world with some buttery uni (sea urchin) or a selection of line-caught nigiri (bite-sized slices of fish on rice). Lap it all down with a milky nigori sake.

Even carnivores crave fresh crisp veggies and ripe fruits! Organic restaurants can reacquaint you with the flavors of Mother Nature's seasons. Experiment with nutritious and delicious quinoa or tempeh, foods that will leave your appetite satiated while leaving you light on your feet.

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The heady flavors of South America should have any Dragon flying high. For the ultimate in substance and sensation, nothing tops feijoada, a sumptuous pork and beef stew that also happens to be the national dish of Brazil. Originating in Portugal, it's a traditional feast on three continents, including Africa. Wash it down with a cocktail of cachaca, a Brazilian sugarcane rum.

The exotic flavors and smells of Indian fare are sure to charm. If curry isn't your speed, try a thali (variety), tikka (roasted), or saag (spinach) dish -- and don't forget the paneer (cheese)! Explore a world of mouth-watering spices such as cumin, coriander, and cardamom. Opt for dosa if you're fortunate enough to have a South Indian restaurant in your midst.

The bountiful Mediterranean beckons with the culinary heritage of the cradle of humanity. The shores that connect Europe, the Middle East, and Africa will never limit your choices! Spend a meal -- or a lifetime -- sampling the best oils, herbs, tapenades, hummus, couscous, risottos, and seafood that Italy, Greece, Morocco, and Egypt have to offer.

Coconut milk fantasies and green papaya dreams are where Sheep run free. After all, what else sparks imagination like the savory spice of panang curry, or inspires the mind like angels of tofu swimming in spinach and sweet peanut sauce? The aromas of chiles, lime leaves, and lemongrass will keep you under their spell. To eat may be human ... but Thai food is divine!

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For a new twist on old favorites, try a fusion restaurant. Is there Latin dim sum nearby? Perhaps French-Vietnamese? Any cuisine called "Californian" or "nouveau" should draw on multiple traditions. Why follow conventional culinary rules? Food should be creative, clever, and fun, with an element of surprise involved!

Japanese chefs know that colorful and immaculate presentation is the shortest path to a Rooster's stomach, and that anticipation is no small part of a meal's enjoyment. Exquisitely carved food and plated works of art are signatures of Japanese cuisine that will have you devouring your dinner with your eyes before you even take your first bite.

There's nothing like perfectly crisp fish and chips to soothe a salty Dog's soul. Order fresh cod or halibut with a light beer batter, fried potato wedges cut thick, and ample malt vinegar. Pair with New England-style clam chowder for the ultimate comfort food, and a cold draught ale if the sailor's spirit moves you.

Sometimes you want to go where the maitre d' knows your name. Seek out a luxurious French bistro, where pungent cheeses, buttery crepes, and rich meats will enhance your abundant joie de vivre. Of course, no French meal is complete without a carafe of fine wine. Bon appetit!

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