This is a good one and fine for a nice light Summer dinner. I think I also finally licked the issue with having my coconut curries turn out too bland – I think I *finally* added enough spice!
gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan
Roasted Veggie Coconut Curry
2-3 c. pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 c. broccolini, chopped
2 green chilis, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
15 oz. can coconut milk
2 empty cans’ worth your favorite stock
4 Tbsp. curry blend
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
Protein of choice
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 scallion, sliced
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
Bake the pumpkin at 400F in a little oil, seasoned with salt & pepper, 20-30 minutes or until soft.
Add the rest of the ingredients to a slow cooker or Instant Pot, minus the protein, noodles, lime juice, scallion or cilantro. Set on “Soup” or “Stew” and let cook. If you are using chicken, add the protein at this step. If you’re using something like seafood or tofu, cook separately and add at the end with the noodles.
Prepare your noodles separately.
When the curry is done cooking, tase for salt & pepper and top with the lime juice, scallion and cilantro.
This week, I was really attracted to the Buddha bowl pics scattered throughout my Pinterest feed and didn’t want to make 9,000 ingredients – so I worked to combine a list (albeit a large list) of simple ingredients in a variety of ways to make the best of a simple mixture of quinoa + rice.
My week 100% could have been more cost-effective, but it gave me a good dose of the ingredients combining kind of Chopped Kitchen kind of life I’ve been missing.
Quinoa & Rice Base
3/4 c. quinoa (rinse if you’re not lazy like me)
3/4 c. sushi rice (rinse if you aren’t lazy like me)
2 Tbsp. mushroom-based umami powder
1 Tbsp. vinegar (I usually use rice vinegar but only had black vinegar on hand)
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
Big sprinkle salt
Combine all and set your rice cooker to cook. Alternately, sushi rice & quinoa both take about 25 minutes to cook on the stove.
Now for the mix-ins to transform this simple added-protein base into a few different dishes.
Day 1: Sesame Crusted Salmon Bowl
Sesame crusted salmon (take 1 salmon steak, skin and de-bone. Pat dry. Brush with a little soy sauce and sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds. Press the sesame seeds into the fish to adhere. Shallow fry over medium-high in a pan until cooked to your desired doneness. Drain on paper towels until ready to use.)
Quinoa + sushi rice base (see recipe above)
Avocado, sliced or cubed
Lemon sesame pickled cucumbers , diced
Pickled ginger, minced
Roasted butternut squash (Mix 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil, 1/2 tsp. date molasses & 1/2 tsp. white miso into a sauce – drizzle over a halved and seeded butternut squash and bake @ 400F for 25 mins or until soft and browned)
1 Tbsp. peanut butter (tahini would also be great)
1 tsp. white miso
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. Bulldog sauce (or Worcestershire)
2 tsp. black vinegar (or sushi vinegar)
1 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. your favorite hot sauce (I used a habanero mix)
To make your bowl, assemble about half a cup of the quinoa mix and later the desired amount of the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle sauce over top and sprinkle with thinly sliced nori. Dust with more sesame if desired.
Day 2: Spicy Fiesta(ish) Bowl
1/2 c. frozen corn
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Sauté the above in olive oil; season with salt, pepper & Tony’s Creole seasoning or your favorite spicy mix
1/2 c. quinoa
1 hand full cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. lime juice
Add the water to the quinoa and zap to warm. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice.
2 Tbsp. your favorite plain yogurt (mine is a plain coconut milk)
2 tsp. – 1 Tbsp. your favorite hot sauce (mine is a habanero garlic mix)
Stir to combine.
Butternut squash leftover from the first bowl
To make your bowl, assemble about half a cup of the quinoa mix and later the desired amount of the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle sauce over top and top with avocado & squash.
Day 3: Spiced Chickpea Veggie Bowl
1.5 c. chopped kale
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 lg. zucchini, diced
1 Tbsp. oil
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. yogurt
1 Tbsp. almond butter
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. sumac
2 tsp. lemon juice
Leftover Bowl Components
Quinoa rice mix
Roasted chickpeas (I usually buy mine and have an Indian spiced variety that’s amazing)
To make your bowl, assemble about half a cup of the quinoa mix and later the desired amount of the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle sauce over top and add avocado & chickpeas.
I don’t know about you, but it’s boiling hot where I live – aaaaand I ate so much on my vacation to the States that pretty much all I want is a crisp, refreshing salad. With no lettuce, because it’s not my favorite way to do salad.
This recipe is a riff on a Vietnamese version I read in a magazine on the plane – if I remember correctly, that version had less in the way of heat and less in the way of vinegar. I had leftovers of this salad for days (yay, a salad that gets even better as it ages) and liked the days I remembered to add a little extra lime juice kick the most.
gluten-free (check your labels), paleo, pescatarian, low carb
Tomato Salad Goes To Asia
1/4 c. sugar (I used brown)
1/4 c. fish sauce
1/4 c. lime juice + more for serving
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
Big pinch red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds (optional)
Generous bit freshly cracked pepper
500g cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced into thin moons
3 small or 1 large cucumber, sliced into thin moons
1 long pepper (your fav variety – I used something red akin to a Cubanele)
2 c. mixed herbs (I used cilantro, mint & dill)
Toppers: Roasted, salted peanuts, French fried onions, green onion slices, finishing salt, extra squeeze lime juice, extra cracks black pepper
Combine all ingredients listed before the tomatoes in a jar and shake until we’ll combined and the sugar has dissolved.
Chuck the rest of the non-topper ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing.
Serve with your desired toppers and enjoy for a few meals.
This is a simple and quick sheet pan dinner with a nice, light taste for nights when you *want* some super unhealthy Japanese takeout, but don’t want a bunch of grease – or to wait for delivery.
Sheet Pan Miso Bowl
1.5 Tbsp. miso
1.5 Tbsp. brown sugar
1.5 Tbsp. date molasses (or a smaller amount of honey or other sugar)
3 Tbsp. soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos
3 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 bell pepper
2 – 3 carrots
2 – 3 chicken breasts or other protein
Preheat your oven to 200C/375F and prepare a baking sheet.
Combine all the wet ingredients together, mashing the miso with the back of a spoon to break it up better. Set aside.
Chop the chicken, carrots and pepper into bite-sized pieces, placing all onto the prepared baking sheet.
Pour 2/3 of the sauce over top and toss well to combine.
Spread the chicken & veggies out in a single layer over the baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until cooked through.
Take the last third of the sauce, zap it in the microwave about 20 seconds to ensure the sugar is melted. Add a Tablespoon of water to thin the sauce a bit. Stir well to combine and toss with the cooked chicken & veggies before serving.
This recipe was inspired by a Tasty video for crispy onigiri that popped up on my Facebook feed, and turned out really well, though it’s not *technically* teriyaki sauce, since it doesn’t include mirin. Mirin isn’t available where I live, and this recipe makes a great halal alternative.
Chicken Teriyaki Onigiri
1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts
1.5 Tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 cloves grated garlic
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. sushi vinegar (I used this as a replacement for mirin)
1 medium carrot, grated
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced and then chopped fairly small
Neutral oil, salt & pepper
Green onion (optional)
Sesame seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp. mayo
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
Mix the cornstarch with enough water to form a slurry. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, honey, sesame oil and sushi vinegar. Stir to combine.
Chop the chicken into small chunks and add half the marinade. Marinate for :30 – 1 hour.
While the chicken is marinating, cook your rice (I make mine simply with 1c. sushi rice + 1 Tbsp. sesame oil + 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar, a big pinch salt + 2c. water cooked on the rice setting of my electronic cooker).
When your rice is done, remove to a bowl to cool a bit.
Reduce the other half of the marinade until thickened over low heat and set aside.
Grate the carrot and chop the pepper thinly. Set aside.
Thinly slice the green pepper and set aside.
Mix the mayo and remaining 2 Tbsp. soy sauce in a small dish and set aside.
Add 1 Tbsp. neutral oil to a medium pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and sauté, moving frequently so the sugar in the sauce doesn’t burn, until cooked through. Sprinkle with a little salt and a generous amount of white pepper (or less – or black pepper – you do you).
Set the chicken aside. Add 1 Tbsp. neutral oil to the pan and put back over the heat.
Add the carrot and pepper and sauté until soft. Add 1 Tbsp. of the reserved and reduced marinade. Stir to combine and let cook another minute or two. Set aside.
You’re ready to assemble your onigiri, and this process goes pretty quick.
I made myself an assembly line – a little dish of water to coat my hands in so the rice doesn’t stick, rice, the dish of soy sauce mayo, chicken, veggies, sliced green onions, sesame seeds, and nigiri sheets that have been cut in half.
To assemble: dip your hands in the water, grab a small hand full of rice, and press into a flat (ideally triangular shape but I couldn’t make that happen) shape. Make a small dent in the middle of the rice. Spread some of the flavored mayo all the way to the edges of the rice. Add a couple chunks of chicken (I used 3), about a Tablespoon of veggies, and a couple slices green onions. Fold your fingers up, turning your hand and the rice into kind of a cup. With your other hand, push the chicken into that cup as you continue folding your fingers up, enclosing the chicken and veggies into a rice case. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and lay on one of the halved nori sheets. Roll up into a burrito looking roll, wetting one end of the nori to seal everything together.
I know this sounds really awkward, but you’re basically doing what you would do to stuff a burger with cheese, if that makes sense. I went gentle and slow and didn’t worry too much about overstuffing each ball. Needless to say, I had a bunch of leftover chicken; enough for dinner for two + lunch the next day.
*Internal excitement intensifies* Season 5 of the Expanse is out, and with it, a renewed excitement about the food explored in the series. I’ve been so excited, in fact, that my poor brain has been working over time yet again this season and has been choosing to switch on at 3am to ponder the problem of nutrition in space. Because I’m a nerd and totally fine with that.
Omfg, here she goes with the bold subheadings. Yep. Strap in, folks, I have time on my hands and am willing to go full nerd while espousing my lack of knowledge on the Internets.
About The Expanse
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the Leviathan Wakes books by James S.A. Corey and accompanying television show – The Expanse – is a massive (9 book and thus far 5 season) Sci-Fi series dealing with politics, inequality, humanity’s spread throughout the solar system, war, profit, cabals, and external forces. In broad, non-spoilery terms at least. There’s So. Much. More.
The world building is phenomenal, and the attention to scientific detail (I mean c’mon … the show had me at the opening dealing with gravity) gives just enough meat for the non-scientific at least to run with. It’s like two of my other Sci-Fi loves – Battlestar Galactica and The Martian had a huge baby.
This explanation isn’t doing either series any justice at all. Suffice it to say that it’s great and I would be shocked to hear that it isn’t being used as a teaching tool in at least some discipline of college course.
Food is a big part of the books (at least it’s mentioned frequently and is used to convey information about the characters, location and politics), and I’m super fascinated in what the food of this world tastes like.
What the food is made of, what the flavor profiles are … who are these people, and what do they like? They aren’t (all) subsisting on military-style MREs, but they’re in space … so lobster is probably right out. Where did these people come from on Earth? They’re not all North American in ancestry – the UN runs things at least ostensibly; not necessarily the US (although it is an American series written in English, so there’s definitely a sense that at least geographically a lot of the Earth references are from there, if not political power as well).
Before I get too lost in the Food Nerd weeds, today’s recipe is one I’ve been mulling over since I first read the books. Quite a few mentions have been made of noodles with mushrooms or noodles with black sauce – or both. In my mind, given the fact that the Outer Belt is populated heavily by people of broad Asian descent, black sauce brings to mind Korean-Chinese Jajangmyeon (fermented black bean sauce), which is the absolute bomb but which I can’t source the ingredients for easily.
Reddit seems to agree with that assessment, and mention is made of hoisin sauce possibly being a substitute flavor profile.
I tend to lean toward a vegan analog for butter taste mixed with a bit of grease like takeout Chinese noodles have, mixed with delicate mushrooms, black vinegar and a bit of hoisin or oyster sauce mixed in. With garlic powder. Spices are a thing, and I refuse to believe that humanity has abandoned garlic.
Personally, I would add something green like bok choy or something with some nutrition, but food is political in this world, and fresh veggies would be hard to find, I imagine. This is poor people food – and the poor in this society don’t even have free and clear access to adequate oxygen, let alone stable food supply lines and proper nutrition. No veggies for me. (Mostly) shelf stable, it is.
Back to non directly recipe-related Nerdery.
Egg Noodles & Space Chickens
In the books, reference to egg noodles is made (specifically in Leviathan Wakes, Miller stops at a noodle cart for a cheap cone of egg noodles in black sauce). Egg is also referenced elsewhere in the books, though of course I can’t put my finger on the exact book or framework for that reference – I believe mention was made of a “real” breakfast sounding like it most likely featured meat and some sort of ship eggs – which may or may not have been vegan eggs.
Quite understandably, real meat from an animal is expensive in this world – and I would imagine not only expensive, but super rare for those in the Outer Belt far away from Earth. As far as I can figure, Earth would be the only place with enough land and resources to support any sort of large scale animal farming – or farming of any animals larger than rabbit (I don’t believe, however, that mention is made of rabbit).
Mention is made of vat grown meat, and farmed salmon for sushi – which makes sense mostly, though that’s a lot of water.
But chickens? Yeah, you can have chickens on a balcony in a city and still get eggs, but to have enough chickens to make enough eggs that egg noodles can then be sold cheaply to Belters – that’s a lot of feed, which requires a lot of water, and unless your chickens are running around the ship loose, a lot of dedicated chicken space. Which wouldn’t be wasted – chicken poop makes good fertilizer.
But still … I can see it being a viable protein source somewhere like Ganymede where large scale farming is being conducted, and I suppose big stations like Tycho must have some sort of food production capacity, but you’ve got to have a bunch of chickens to get a stable breeding population – and roosters – to be able to manage all that. Or, would it be more cost-effective to cycle your chickens into stew every 4 years or so when they stop laying to start fresh with a new crop?
How quick are ship times? Can you sell chicken poop for a profit?
I don’t know. If you have more information on this or see big holes in my logic, even if it’s years from now and we are on Season 9 (fingers crossed), let me know in the comments. I’m super interested in this stuff and know next to nothing about it.
For the purposes of this recipe, I’m not sold on egg noodles – despite them being mentioned in the book. I’m leaning toward rice noodles or shiritaki noodles being more plentiful (though shiritaki probably don’t have enough calories to be a viable nutrition source).
Is wheat a thing in this world? I don’t remember seeing any reference to fresh bread – and I can imagine, at least for our Earther protagonist from Montana, that would be a big comfort smell. Like coffee, which is definitely still a thing in this world, even in the Outer Belt (though coffee can be made from a plethora of things – and is definitely used as a plot device to show wealth and power).
Still. I don’t think bread has been mentioned, so what are these egg noodles made out of? Eggs & rice? Keto-style egg ribbons? JUST eggs?
Water in Space
Water. Water is expensive and has been a limiting factor to how large societies can grow since humans decided to clump together. It stands to reason that this continues on into the great beyond, and access to water is one of the tools of subjugation used to keep the Outer Belt under control by the Inner Planets.
This world also mines water off of space rocks and shuttles it around – so I’m thinking this restriction is more political than practical. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe rice takes more water to grow than soybeans. According to a January 2013 report published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, it takes 2,497 liters of water to produce 1kg of rice, but only 1,849 liters of water to produce the same amount of dry pasta (I’m assuming regular wheat pasta) and 196 liters of water for 1 egg. So. If they have enough water for rice, which is also referenced in the book (specifically rice noodles with mushrooms in Babylon’s Ashes), maybe chickens *are* more widespread.
This article from FAO.org details water consumption due to environment and growing cycle, and has soybeans listed as needing 450-700mm of water during the growing period. Rice needs the same amount; wheat needs 450-650mm.
I would imagine that any space set up for farming can be kept at a consistent perfect growing environment – you can have a room set up like South Carolina or Vietnam to grow rice in, right next to the Ohio room growing wheat and soybeans. That makes sense. Still takes a lot of space to produce enough food to feed people, but that’s also a gripe The Belt has about The Inners – access to food.
I had assumed wheat takes too much space and dirt to grow at a functioning agrarian capacity – but maybe that chicken poop (and human poop) helps there? I would imagine compost would be necessary as well. (Although .. what else do you have to compost but poop? I can’t see single-use items being popular aside from recycled paper, and how much nutrition is supplied by vegetables vs some sort of vitamin? I can easily see food food being necessary as a caloric supplement rather than nutritional necessity – ooh. Snowpiercer did a good-but-terrifying job here).
Veganism in space
I still assume that most people living full time in the Outer Belt are at least mostly accidental vegans. Cheese is mentioned in the books, but as a rare delicacy and symbol of the “fat cats” on Earth. I think Earth is the only place with cows and dairy. I don’t think there are Martian cows in this world.
Salmon is mentioned for sushi, but not as something people we know are actually eating – as is vat meat (I still think this could be something like Beyond Burgers instead of actual muscle tissue; but who knows? It’s scientifically possible even now, and we have yet to crawl out of our gravity well in any long-term manner).
I stand by the accidental vegan. Maybe with eggs. Or are they vegan eggs and no one thinks to mention otherwise because chicken is space suits is a stupid question?
Also going out on a limb here and saying honey isn’t really available – I can’t imagine that if Earth has enough people it needs to send some out to colonize, we’ve gotten our ish together regarding bees. Which opens up a whole other deal regarding vegetables and extinction …. but that’s too far of a digression for today.
These are the questions that keep me up at night.
Other Belter Foods If You’ve Read This Far And Are Still Curious
If you’re curious about other Belter food, I also recreated Red Kibble – which was also delicious – and have a whole long dive into cultural influences of flavor on that recipe.
Less successful was my foray into Indo-Chinese Singapore-style noodles, which I did not bother posting but really need to revisit. Also: adding Greek flavors into that mix would be fascinating.
And if I can figure out better TVP sourcing, I’d like to attempt White Kibble as well. I don’t think what I have in my head (Southern style white gravy) is what it would actually taste like.
—-End Nerdy rant and on to the actual recipe—
Today’s recipe is: gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan
Belter Style Black Sauce Mushroom Noodles
1 serving rice noodles (I chose to go with wide noodles, because I wanted something with a touch of bounce. I think texture would be a big thing in this world. I’ve seen other versions using Udon – and egg noodles are mentioned in the book)
1 package Enoki mushrooms (I wanted a delicate mushroom here – one I could see easily taking the place of noodle bulk when noodles are scarce. Something meatier like a portobello or Shiitaki minced would also do – if you use the whole package for 1 person, that’s probably a bit on the baller side for this dish – but it was delicious and I have no ragrets)
2 tsp. ghee or vegan butter (This is possibly a stretch for this world, but butter & mushrooms … ghee is probably not a thing, but vegan butter or some sort of butter analog very well may be – at least on the Stations – I have ghee, so I’m going with that rather than butter butter)
2 tsp. oil (most likely peanut or some other high smoke point neutral oil – I’m using safflower oil, since that is what I have on hand)
1 Tbsp. black vinegar (a fermented vinegar popular in Chinese cooking)
1 Tbsp. Hoisin [also popular in Chinese cooking and I can’t see why some version of this wouldn’t be available. If not, a little oyster sauce + a slack sprinkle of sweetener (but probably not cane sugar) would do well here – or, if you, like me, think you have those sauces but do not – a teaspoon of ketjap manis (sweet soy) + 2 tsp. Bulldog (Japanese Worcestershire) work really well]
Garlic (I wanted to use crispy fried garlic discs so badly in this dish, but while I think garlic is probably available, I think it’s more likely that a cheap & cheerful hawker stall would be using garlic powder – maybe in one of the bars or somewhere with internal seating would have real garlic. I’m going for street stall-ish here, you do you)
Optional toppers: Green onions (maybe not in the street stall version, but I need some bright freshness in my life), and topper condiments like more black vinegar, some soy sauce and chili oil. I’ve got to believe that future hawker stalls will have the customization options available in NYC Chinatown’s dollar dumpling shops
A hand full of chicken analog TVP (probably a little flash for a street stall, but if we are conceding that TVP chunks exist for Belter Kibble – which is also a food of the oppressed – strips also probably exist and are at least mostly readily available. The cost of the mushrooms may balance the cost of the TVP out for a hawker stall version of these noodles, though)
If you’re using TVP, prepare according to package directions. I did not, but only because I could not be bothered to boil them for 8 minutes. I would imagine these would be an easy keep-on-hand prepped item for a hawker stall.
Boil your noodles until almost cooked through and drain.
Assemble the rest of your ingredients, and fire your largest pan up to medium-high – this will go quick.
Add the oil and heat to shimmering. Toss in the mushrooms and TVP if you’re using, and let cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms get a bit of color.
Sprinkle liberally with garlic powder, add a Tablespoon of Hoisin (or your other sauces), and a Tablespoon of vinegar.
Add the noodles and butter analog and toss quickly to combine.
It seems our Lockdown staple of ramen noodles isn’t going anywhere any time soon. DH and I are both still craving comfort, and I’m still on the war path when it comes to wasting ingredients and clearing the pantry – so we are having some mish-mashed meals as of late.
Which is all fine, provided I can continue to find ways to add at least a little nutritional value to dinner. Some sort of vegetable.
This dish elevates some pantry staples admirably, adding two sources of protein (if you add meat), and a veggie that can also serve as a freezer cleaner.
A note on ramen: I used pot noodles (aka cup o’ noodles) for this recipe. We are loving the Korean brand Budok lately – the base flavoring I went with was chicken cheese, but this would be great with pretty much any base flavor. Mushroom, chicken, chili chicken, shrimp, curry – all would be delicious.
vegetarian and vegan if you don’t add meat, gluten-free with substitutions
Peanutty Fancy-Ish Ramen
1 pot instant ramen per person (any flavor will do, or sub rice noodles for gluten free – a little chicken or veggie bouillon would add some nice flavor if you are not using the flavor packet that comes with the noodles)
2 Tbsp. peanut butter (I used a low sugar variety)
1/4 c. soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos
1 Tbsp. sambal olek (chili garlic sauce)
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. honey (sub agave for vegan)
2 small scallions, sliced thinly
Optional: leftover ground chicken or beef, soft boiled egg, fish cakes, leftover fried tofu, or other additional protein source
Sesame seeds for garnish
Combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, sambal, sesame oil and honey in a small pot over low heat. Simmer, stirring, until well combined and beginning to thicken. If your heat is too high and this mixture dries out too much like mine did, add a Tablespoon or two of water, stir quickly to combine, and move off the heat for a second or so to cool down a bit.
While the sauce is working, add frozen spinach to the noodle pots and fill with boiling water. Let sit 3 minutes and drain.
Add the noodles to the pot with the sauce, along with scallions, any additional protein sources, and the seasoning packet. Stir well to combine and garnish with sesame seeds.