Mussels, like most shellfish, are nature’s fast food and this recipe for Thai Mussels in Coconut Curry Sauce shows just how versatile they are. They cook in minutes, the recipes often have few ingredients and the flavours represent countries from around the world.
On the Canadian prairies where I grew up we ate a lot of meat and potatoes and sometimes fish sticks. I can confidently say I hadn’t even heard of shellfish let alone eaten it. Then I got a job in a restaurant, was exposed to all kinds of food and became fascinated with all of it.
I distinctly remember the first time I ate mussels. I was on vacation with a friend in Paris and her cousins took us camping to the south of France. Every day was an adventure and I ate many things I had never tried before but the mussels were the most memorable. In my mind I can see us driving down a long cobblestone road on the French Riviera and arriving at this large stone restaurant with outdoor tables on both sides of the road. They were all set with white tablecloths and wine glasses and we sat only a few feet away from the beach and the Mediterranean Sea. As a young teenager it was a magical experience.
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Buying and Storing Fresh Mussels
When I cook mussels I always wonder why I don’t do it more often. For amazingly delicious shellfish My best tip is to buy fresh shellfish from a reliable store. We have a Fish Shop nearby and I appreciate their knowledge and experience. They know how to handle fish, the quality is great and they always want to know what I’m cooking. Most sources say that when you cook mussels they must be fresh. I’ve never even looked for frozen mussels but I’ll pass along the warning I’ve read many times. NEVER buy frozen mussels!
If you haven’t cooked mussels lately, or ever, they’re super easy. It’s natural to be intimidated if you’ve never cooked them before but as with most things the more you do it the more comfortable you get. When I buy mussels they put them in a plastic bag and then a second bag with ice. Fishmongers know that the quality deteriorates with every hour shellfish is not refrigerated so take them home and get them in the fridge.
Cooking Fresh Mussels
Older cookbooks often instruct one to scrub and debeard mussels before cooking them. Everyday cooks not used to mussels either don’t want to do that step or worry that they’ll do it wrong. Fortunately when you buy them it has likely already been done so you just need to rinse and cook.
I cook mussels in my wok because it’s easy but you can cook them in the largest pot of a typical set of pots. Simply boil the liquid, add the mussels and steam them for a few minutes. Almost every recipe includes white wine and garlic so you really can’t go wrong.
The Gluten Free Asian Pantry
If you’re new to gluten free Asian cooking check out this blog post titled Gluten Free Asian Pantry. In this recipe I use canned coconut milk, red curry paste and fish sauce. With these staples in my kitchen it’s pretty quick and easy to make this dish.
Are you going to cook some mussels for the first time? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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A Travel Tale – Thailand
From time to time I write a travel post for my friend Sue over at Travel Tales of Life. This is the one I wrote about our trip to Thailand many years ago titled, Thai Red Shrimp Curry.
More Recipes – Thai and Mussels
Thai Mussels in Coconut Curry Sauce
- 2 lb fresh mussels
- 1 can coconut milk (14 oz/400 ml)
- ⅓ cup lime juice
- ⅓ cup white wine
- 1½-2 Tbsp red curry paste
- 1½ Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp Asian fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- FINISHING - 1½ cups chopped fresh cilantro
- Carefully remove the mussels from the plastic bag into a large strainer. Rinse under cold running water. Mussels will open and close their shells when they are out of water. They should all be closed before cooking.
- In a wok or large pot combine coconut milk, lime juice, wine, curry paste (2 Tbsp if you like it hot), garlic, fish sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the curry paste has dissolved evenly into the sauce, 2-3 minutes.
- Add all the mussels, cover and steam 5-8 minutes until the mussels are opened.
- Remove mussels and place is serving dishes. Discard any mussels that don’t open.
- Add cilantro to sauce, stir and pour over the mussels. Serve immediately.