Updated: Aug 24
Experience the Aromatic Delight of Oriental Cuisine!
Recently, I sourced some exceptional mussels from my local fishmonger. Their freshness is unparalleled, and my favourite way to highlight their flavour is with a rich Thai Red Curry sauce and aromatic jasmine rice. If this piques your interest, stay tuned! The following sections will guide you through crafting this delightful dish. Let's dive into this culinary adventure together!
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Thai Red Curry Paste Ingredients (Sufficient for two servings):
4 red chillies (deseed for milder spice, or retain seeds for extra heat), sliced.
40g (1.4oz) ginger, peeled and sliced.
2 lemongrass stalks, outer layers discarded and sliced.
2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced.
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced.
1 tsp ground coriander.
1 tsp cumin.
1 tsp mild chilli powder.
0.5 tsp black pepper.
4 tbsp vegetable oil.
1 tsp salt.
Main Ingredients (Serves 2):
700g (1.5 pounds) of mussels (I purchased 800g, but 100g were subpar).
3 tbsp homemade red curry paste.
400ml (0.42 quarts) coconut milk.
Juice of 1 lime.
Fresh coriander for garnish.
Cooked jasmine rice for serving.
Guidelines for Checking and Cleaning Mussels:
Checking for Freshness:
Shell Integrity: Ensure that the mussels' shells are intact. Broken or cracked shells are a sign of dead or damaged mussels, which should be discarded.
Response to Pressure: Some mussels may slightly open their shells when at rest. If they close upon gentle pressure, it indicates they are alive. However, it's typical for most to remain closed.
Odour: Fresh mussels should have a clean, oceanic scent. If they emit a foul or sour odor, it's best to discard them.
Open Shells: Mussels that remain open and show no response to tapping or gentle pressure should be thrown away, as they are likely dead and not safe for consumption.
Removing Calcifications: Over time, mussels can develop calcified deposits on their shells. To clean, knock off any calcifications on the shell using a knife's blunt edge.
Scrubbing: Scrub the surface of the mussel shells with a steel scourer to remove any dirt, algae, or other residues.
Debearding: Mussels have a tiny hair, known as the "beard," protruding from their shell. This beard is what mussels use to anchor themselves to surfaces. To remove, grip the beard and pull it out, using its base as a reference point for removal. Note that in farmed mussels, the beard is often already removed.
Rinsing: After scrubbing and debearding, rinse the mussels under cold running water to wash away any remaining debris.
Avoid Chlorinated Water: Chlorinated water can be harmful to mussels and may kill them. Always use fresh, cold water for cleaning.
Timeliness: To ensure the mussels remain fresh and flavourful, it's best to clean them shortly before cooking. If you must clean them in advance, store them in a bowl covered with a damp cloth in the refrigerator to maintain their freshness. Avoid sealing them in airtight containers, as they need to breathe.
Prepare the curry paste by blending all its ingredients into a smooth mixture. Pre-chopping the ingredients facilitates easier blending.
Heat a medium pan on high and sauté half of the curry paste for 2 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and whisk thoroughly before introducing the mussels.
Cover the pan and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to let it simmer.
Cook the mussels for about 4 minutes.
Once done, sprinkle with lime juice and serve hot, garnished with rice and freshly chopped coriander. Enjoy!
From the Chef
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If your blender isn't powerful enough to produce a smooth paste, you can infuse the milk with the paste and then strain it before adding the mussels.
Molluscs, like mussels, have a distinctive taste due to the amino acids they store for energy. These compounds also help them regulate the salinity of the surrounding seawater. One such acid, glutamic acid, imparts the umami flavour.