Now it seems like we’re on a bit of a mussel binge. I had been thinking about how good they’d been in Thai red curry at Café Miranda years ago, and since they were mussels, how hard could it be? Serves 4-6:
Thai Red Curry Mussels
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 4 bird’s-eye chiles, split to the stem (more or less to taste)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (2″) piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass
- 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 3 or 4 makrut lime leaves (or the zest of a lime)
- 3 cups thick coconut milk (about 1½ cans, well-shaken before opening)
- 3 pounds mussels, cleaned*
- 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, for garnish
- 1 chile, sliced, for garnish (optional)
- 1 cup Thai basil leaves, or regular basil, for garnish
- Lime wedges, for serving
Make the curry: Put vegetable oil in a large pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until lightly browned and softened, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add chiles, garlic, ginger and lemongrass and let sizzle for about 1 minute. Then add red curry paste and tomato paste and fry with the onion mixture for 2 minutes more.
Add fish sauce, lime leaves (or zest) and coconut milk. Bring mixture to a boil, then add mussels and stir to coat with sauce. Cover and cook mussels, stirring once or twice, until all the mussels have steamed open, 8 to 10 minutes.
Ladle mussels and lots of sauce into deep, wide bowls. Sprinkle with cilantro, chile slices, basil leaves and lime wedges, serve and enjoy!
Frank was skeptical when I said red curry mussels, but one mussel in and he was a total convert! We thought about having moules frites with some great duck fat fries that we get from Picard, but I ended up making a pot of jasmine rice to go with it and that worked well. This is definitely a dish that will go on repeat. Mussels are done in about the same time as the rice.
Please, please do not substitute low fat coconut milk for anything, ever. It’s ghastly. Enough said.
So far, Thai basil has been difficult to find in Nice, so regular will have to do.
A trick my mother taught me is to use frozen chopped lemongrass. It saves tons of time and is a nice thing to have in the freezer. You can find it in Asian grocery stores. Another trick is to buy tomato paste in tubes, it’s perfect for things like this that don’t require a lot of it (but it really adds to the flavor).
*This time, I got smart and bought cleaned mussels, so just had to rinse them. Someone smarter told me the fishmongers where I got the last batch would have cleaned them for me. Gotta love France.