Are you familiar with Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter? It’s the poem recited by Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice in Wonderland and tells the story of walrus and a carpenter who happen upon a bed of oysters while walking along the beach. They invite the oysters to walk with them and, when they stop to rest, the walrus devours all of the oysters before the carpenter has a chance to eat any.
That’s basically what happens whenever anyone orders mussels with me in a restaurant. I love mussels. I don’t mean to be greedy! I intend to share every time, but they are so tasty that I find myself easily getting carried away. I am totally the walrus!
The first time I had mussels was in college. I went to UC Berkeley and one of my favorite things to do on weekends was hop on BART and head to Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco. There, I’d grab a bowl of clam chowder and make my way to Aquatic Park (the park behind Ghriardelli Square) and study. One day, I grabbed cioppino instead of clam chowder and my love for mussels was born!
Side note: I’ve yet to make cioppino at home, but I am dying to try Tyler Florence’s version.
For this recipe, I steam the mussels using light coconut milk that has been infused with garlic, ginger, and red curry paste. I use light coconut milk in this recipe because it has a milder taste than full fat coconut milk. I like that there is a hint of coconut in the broth that doesn’t overpower the taste of the mussels.
Mussels are alive when you buy them and should be eaten the same day you purchase them. When you bring them home, store them in a bowl, on top of ice, in your refrigerator. You could also store them in a large pot of cold salt water in your fridge as this article suggests.
When you are ready to cook your mussels, you will first need to go through them and pick out any mussels with open, cracked, or punctured shells. Discard any with cracked or punctured shells. Tap open mussels on the counter. If they close, they are still alive and ok to eat. If they do not close, they are dead and should be thrown away.
Next, you will need to debeard the mussels. The “beard” looks like little threads of seaweed sticking out from the side of the mussel. To remove this, grab it and pull towards the hinge end of the mussel. Most come out fairly easily, but there are some you will have to wrestle with.
After you remove the beard, rinse the mussel under cold running water and scrub any dirt off the outside of the shell. Finally, soak them in a bowl of ice water for about 5 minutes to flush out any remaining dirt or grit that may be inside the shell.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 green onions, chopped -or- 1 small shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 1/3 can water, I use the coconut milk can
- 2 lbs. mussels
- 2 green onions, chopped
- Handful of cilantro, chopped
- In a heavy bottom pot over medium-low heat, sweat the onions, garlic, and ginger in olive oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute.
- Add the coconut milk and water and raise the heat medium-high. Bring just to a boil, stirring to blend all of the ingredients.
- Add the mussels and cover the pot. Cook until the mussels open, about 5-7 minutes.
- Divide the mussels evenly among two bowls. Discard any mussels that fail to open. Spoon the remaining cooking liquid over the mussels.
- Garnish with chopped green onion and cilantro, if desired.