The Expanse red kibble: the wing and a prayer first version

I’m incapable of engaging with my interests at a normal level like most people, so after I finished the last available book of The Expanse I started scheming about how to make red kibble.

I don’t think I have it, but for a first version I’m glad that they at least tasted good.

Key elements I’m picking up on for this are:

  1. it’s a street food, and seems like a real comfort food for Belters. I think these goods are generally “feelings first” over nutrition, and I’m relying on all of the synthesized supplements that clearly exist to fill in the nutrient profile on this one instead of selecting ingredients for nutrition. by comparison, I think of white kibble as a more utilitarian high protein food.
  2. it’s heavily spiced, particularly with cumin
  3. it’s deep fried balls of bean paste. I initially misremembered this as “red bean paste” which will explain a decision I made
  4. in the show, it’s shown with sauce, but I don’t feel like this works for people who live exclusively in low or no gravity. it’s also indicated in the show that it has to be made, implying it can’t just be reconstituted. I’m agreeing on this one, because it’s clearly “corridor food” when Naomi buys some – made by a Belter running a street stall.
  5. since this is from the Belt, I tried to work with foods that are indicated as being obtainable, cheaply, in space. Cinnamon is out on account of needing to grow a tree, for example. herbs and small plants are okay, and hyper processed items are probably better than not.
  6. it’s served in a papery container with a spatula/flattened spoon to eat it
  7. eating one kibble at a time would make you look delicate, so they’re not huge
  8. I need to reread on this but I think the implications are that Belters are a mix of early Mars colonizers (China, Texas) and then their creole seems influenced by Spanish and maybe Arabic. Really, I just took this to mean a spicy flavor profile with maybe South and Southeast Asian influences.

All that in mind, and with the supposition that the authors are Sci Fi nerds who might be influenced by Japanese street foods, I decided to use an adzuki (red mung bean) paste base. This goes in boba tea, steamed buns, etc, and it seemed to me like it could be fried like a falafel. This is perhaps foreshadowing.

a can of Kabuto red bean paste

Now, I purchased some various cans of paste from my nearby Korean market. I only realized when I got home that there was English on a label on the back of the can, so I selected at random and this one turned out to also contain chestnut. That’s fine. We’ll refine as we go. It’s also pre sweetened and I think by the end I’ve decided I want to find an unsweetened one.

Next up, we need to heavily spice it. I split my adzuki into two halves so I could work small. I settled on, for about one cup of adzuki:
1/8 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp (light hand) hot red pepper powder
1/8 tsp yellow mustard
dab of gochujang
few grinds of black pepper

an array of spices and the adzuki
food blog style spice bowl

I still need to replace my spice grinder, so I used the fenugreek seeds by putting them in the (canola) oil and letting it heat. While that was working I mixed all of the above list into the paste. Upon tasting, I doubled everything but the salt, mustard, and gochujang and probably tripled the cumin. Then I strained the fenugreek out of the oil and put it back in the pan. The sesame seeds I was thinking of sprinkling on top after cooking but they didn’t really stick.

oil filled with adzuki bits. RIP
first run kibble, looking pretty smushy

As you can see, the first run didn’t go great. I don’t have a cooking thermometer so I heated the oil until it was lightly aromatic and uncomfortable to hold my hand over, which I generally consider medium-high for frying. Unfortunately, even though the paste held a ball shape when I scooped it with a spoon, it fell apart pretty immediately in the oil and did not hold during frying. The first round did taste good, if a bit subdued – I plan to further increase the spices next time.

The quick potential remedy I thought of was to freeze the balls and reduce the oil heat slightly so they didn’t bubble quite so violently.

freezing on some foil in the ice drawer
second round, a little more kibble-y

This maybe helped, but unfortunately I undercooked them (because the now dirty oil made them look very dark) so what you see is some kibble that were squished post cooking into more of a ball shape. I dusted them with more ground cumin when I pulled them out and, you know, the flavor isn’t bad.

What I’m going to change for next time:

  • more spice
  • get some ground coriander
  • and better, fresher paprika
  • try frying them in a smaller amount of oil. it won’t be “deep frying” but I also don’t live in quarter-g which I’m thinking would really assist with the globular nature of any paste

Considerations for later versions:

  • maybe dredging them in some rice flour. I don’t know how I feel about the availability of wheat, but I think the books discuss rice. they definitely discuss yeast, and I’m willing to believe there’s a flour analog
  • unsweetened adzuki. I think I’ll add back some sugar, but the premix is very sweet and I think it makes it hard to get the spice profile strong enough