Red Kibble paired with Nemesis Games

In which Rachel hijacks Rohan’s Fiction to Sink Your Teeth Into column!

“[Naomi] opted for red kibble from a scarred kiosk with adhesive from generations of nightclub flyers caking its sides. It came in a brown pressed-shred container that fit in her left palm with a plastic spatula like a flattened spoon to eat with. The first bite filled her mouth with cumin and her mind with dust-covered memory. For a moment, she was in her bunk on Tio Kriztec’s ship, huddled over the white ceramic bowl she had loved then and forgotten for years, eating quietly while the others sang in the galley”  (Nemesis Games, Chapter 9)

“The meal was the heavily spiced and deep-fried balls of bean paste that Belters called red kibble “(Persepolis Rising, Chapter 26).

Red kibble is featured prominently in James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series, particularly Nemesis Games and Persepolis Rising, where Naomi Nagata enjoys it in stark contrast to her crewmates on the Rocinante. It’s a dish favoured by the Belters, the downtrodden civilization raised and adapted to living in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. They frequently must make do with the limited ingredients available, adding interest through spice and texture.

Many Expanse fans have tried their hand at recreating the recipe, which was also featured on the show. I had to give it a try!

Since Belter civilization draws from a number of real world cultures, I drew flavours from Chinese, Indian, and Ethiopian cuisines.

Note: My personal spice tolerance is closer to Naomi’s; if you, like James Holden, can’t handle a high level of spice, I recommend cutting the berbere and cumin in half, and omitting the chilis.


  • ¼ of a large container, or half a block firm or medium firm tofu
  • ½ cup mushrooms (I used half a package of dried mushrooms and rehydrated them for that authentic space station experience)
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cup water or mushroom broth (I did half and half)
  • 2 tbsp berbere spice
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
  • One onion, diced
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • A pinch of salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • ½ can tomato paste
  • Marinade (see recipe below)

For the marinade:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp dried chilis (I used Laoganma spicy dry chili crisp)
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Pinch of black pepper


  1. Press tofu for a half-hour and then brush with marinade, then leave aside for about 15 minutes. If you’re using dehydrated mushrooms, let them soak for 20 minutes and then drain.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat a generous amount of oil on medium-high. The oil should be very hot!
  3. Pour cornstarch and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Cut tofu into cubes and roll it and the mushrooms in the cornstarch until well-coated. 
  4. Drop the tofu and mushrooms into the oil and fry until golden-brown. Drain the oil and put the tofu and mushrooms on paper towels to drain any excess oil that remains.
  5. While they’re draining, fry onion and garlic in some more oil in a small saucepan. Once the onion is translucent, add berbere, cumin, and tomato paste and stir. It should quickly form an aromatic paste.
  6. Add lentils and water/broth, then cover, stirring occasionally for 20-30 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed.
  7. When only a little water remains, add tofu and mushrooms and stir for a few more minutes.
  8. Serve on rice, injera, or with a bulb of fresh coffee!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s