Thai Steamed Mussels
This recipe is featured in American Terroir
“Steamed mussels are so easy, affordable, fast, and delicious that I don’t understand why more people don’t make them at home. (In fact, if you really want to keep things simple, replace everything but the mussels and coconut milk in the following recipe with a tablespoon or two of jarred red curry paste, and away you go.) Avoid buying wild mussels, which are invariably filled with grit. Of the many versions of steamed mussels, I find the one with Thai flavors to be the best, though I wouldn’t kick the Indian (curry and ginger), the Italian (white wine, garlic, tomato, and parsley), or the French (white wine, cream, and tarragon) varieties out of bed, either. If you’re not serving this with fries, a hot loaf of crusty bread is essential for mopping up the sauce.” — from American Terroir by Rowan Jacobsen
- Servings Serves 4 to 6
- 4 pounds mussels
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 14-ounce can coconut milk
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- juice of ½ lime
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce*
- 1 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
*Bottles of fish sauce (often with a freaky-looking baby on the front) are available in most supermarkets these days. Three dollars gets you a lifetime supply. Used like soy sauce, it will improve the taste of half the things you cook.
1. Rinse and scrub the mussels under cold running water. Discard any with broken or open shells; these are already dead. Remove any “beards” – the byssal thread, which sticks out of the middle of the mussel and which it uses for web-slinging itself around, Spider-Man-style. It’s an impressive piece of hardware, and unbelievably tough. To remove it, use a paring knife for leverage and yank it out with your thumb. You can also snip it off with scissors, but then you leave a little beard inside.
2. Combine everything but the fresh herbs in a large pot, cover, and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mussel shells have opened and the mussels have plumped up, about 12 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, dump the mussels into a large serving bowl, toss the herbs on top, and let everybody have at it. Or, if decorum is of the essence, serve them in individual bowls. Either way, you’ll need a bowl for the discarded shells.