Spicy Thai mussels

Plump mussels in aromatic coconut milkI’m often asked for an easy-to-prepare, but elegant dinner party dish. I love mussels – they are healthful, and look fabulous. Be sure none of your guest is allergic to seafood, but otherwise this is so easy it is perfect for entertaining. I also adore the spicy Asian flavours of this dish. So do my friends and family.  

For years I have used delicious cultivated mussels from Prince Edward Island. They are easy to find and clean now. Here in Atlanta, mussels are small and unsatisfying – even in the best seafood restaurants. Why? I do not know, and can’t seem to find out. So I experimented with huge frozen New Zealand mussels. Either way, I love this dish or so do all my friends. Try it and delight your friends.
 
Scrub fresh mussels under cold water. Most cultivated mussels will be pretty clean and need nothing more than good rinse. If they have a “beard” or scraggly piece of seaweed hanging on them, pull it of with needle-nose pliers. I find this is the best thing to use for the job. Sturdy tweezers work well, too.
 
Throw out any mussel that does not close completely when you hit it on the counter; it could be dangerous to eat.
 
If you are using the big frozen NZ mussels — and they are good! — defrost them almost completely. Rinse them in cold water right before cooking.
 
In a big pot, place:
1-3 Thai or Bird chilies (use only 1 chili for if you don‘t want it, spicy hot)
1 to 3 stalks of lemon grass, bruised, or the peel of a freshly-washed lemon cut into strips.
1 handful of clean chiffonaded Thai or regular basil, and 1 handful of cilantro leaves, removed from the stems.
3 to 4 cloves of sliced garlic (sliced very fine)
1 inch of finely-sliced ginger
1 tbsp. of green Thai curry paste
 
Sauté in 2 tsp of oil until fragrant.  Do not burn! Add the mussels.
 
Pour in 1 can of coconut milk
2 tsp. Thai fish sauce
Juice of one lemon
2tsp. sugar or 1 pkg. of Splenda
 
Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer and steam the mussels for 6 to 8 minutes — or until they all open. For large frozen NZ mussels, steam 5 minutes to permeate.
 
Serve with steamed Jasmine rice and a Thai mango salad for dinner.
 
Try this. It is wonderful, easy to make, and it really does taste like Bangkok on a plate.
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