Have I told you guys about my obsession with the food from the Expanse/Leviathan Wakes universe? I love this book series (the show is great too), and it’s rife with enough description of common dishes to get this nerdy brain whirling.
I’m fascinated with how these dishes might taste – whose flavors would have influenced them – what technologies are possible in this universe – and what materials and ingredients would be available.
In the Expanse universe, there are three main societies: Earthers, Martians and Belters (humans who live exclusively in space; not on a planet). I could go on about the sociology, political landscape and happenings of the books – suffice it to say that these are the three main factions of import, and what I’m captivated by is the food available on ships or space stations.
So, the first question is what’s available to cook with? Humans have made farming colonies, so it’s safe to say that things like rice (maybe), peas or pea protein, soy, maybe something like kelp, mushrooms, tomatoes, probably things like bean sprouts, peppers, zucchini – other things you can grow in limited space would be available. I think most common would be soy products in all forms, mushrooms and something to make noodles with – rice or kontjac come to mind. Meat would be very scarce; same with dairy. Coffee is available, though most is terrible and I’m not sure if any is exactly what we mean by good coffee in this world. We know cheese is hella expensive and rare. Some analogues are available – mention is made to the lime and peanuts in Pad Thai, with mention that the speaker has never actually tasted the real version of either.
Now, the flavors: who likely had enough people to launch into space to populate the skies? China/Asia, India, ships are involved so Greece, mention is made of some Arabic peoples, I believe someone looking Irish is mentioned (though it could just be a character in the television show I’m thinking of), some generic Anglo Saxon people are seen – I think on the show at least I saw a blonde or two, an Islander of some description, African people of some descent (American or otherwise). The odd Russian. Pretty much everyone, but I’m thinking the majority at least at first were Asian and Indian.
What I’ve seen as the predominant food influences are a mix of those two cultures with some other comfort (lasagna for instance) thrown in for good measure, and I’m imagining the dishes including mushrooms & noodles lean vaguely Italian (at least in my mind).
There is a strong noodle culture in this universe, and hawker stalls which I’m imagining use woks. Microwaves and/or toaster ovens seem to be available on ships. Reconstituted food is also popular, though doesn’t seem at least to be preferred – especially not on space stations, where bars and restaurants are also available.
I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at that. Suffice it to say, I’ve do men a lot of pondering on the subject 😁
A warning here for my texture issues people. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is bouncy, chewy and a bit rubbery. If that bothers you as much as it does my DH, this dish is not for you. Though, from what I’ve heard, finer bits of the stuff make a nice substitution for beef when making a vegetarian version of Taco Bell’s meat.
This recipe is based off the one from the Fan site The Slow Zone. I upped the spice quantity quite a bit from their original suggestion. I may also go back and rework the TVP some day, substituting in red bean paste if I can figure out how to get that to fry up how I need it to (this dish is supposed to look like dog food – kibble is a derogatory term). I went with TVP because it was used in this recipe and I believe it would be available in the universe.
gluten-free (if you use gf flour), vegetarian, vegan
8 ounces textured vegetable protein or soya chunks (TVP)
1 Tablespoon flour (gf or all purpose)
1 Tablespoon oat milk (the original recipe called for yogurt, but I didn’t have a good nondairy substitute available – you could probably omit)
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 Tablespoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons neutral oil
14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
1 Tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
Put a medium saucepan of water on to boil. Once it’s boiling, cut the heat and add the TVP and salt and let soak 30 minutes to rehydrate. Once plump, drain well and press as much water out as possible.
Toss in a large bowl with the rest of the Kibble ingredients but the oil.
Put the clean saucepan back over medium heat. Add the sauce ingredients, bring up to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer 15 – 20 minutes, adding salt and pepper as needed. More heat if you want that, too.
In your largest frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the drained and squeezed TVP and fry, moving frequently so it doesn’t stick, until browned.
Toss the fried kibble with the sauce and serve – I prefer mine with some super al dente rice pasta.
Makes enough for 4