Mussels are one of the unsung heroes of the seafood counter. They're readily available, a sustainable choice, and easy to cook in a myriad of ways. Mussels make a good weeknight option since they cook quickly and sit in a flavorful sauce that's great for serving over noodles or rice, or just with a crusty heel of bread. Thai green curry paste and coconut milk are a great match for these briny bivalves.
Most mussels are sustainably farmed, making them an excellent seafood option. (Did you know they actually help clean the water they're grown in?) When buying mussels, try to get ones without beards (these are thread-like fibers that come out of the shells). Otherwise, you'll have the extra job of cleaning those out.
The Power of Curry Paste
My refrigerator is never without a jar of fragrant Thai curry paste. With this and a can of coconut milk from the pantry, I have the base for a sauce that I can use to cook almost any protein or vegetable. When combined with fresh ginger, chile, garlic, and the liquid that comes out of mussels when they open, you get a tasty sauce good enough to eat alone! These mussels take only about 20 minutes to cook after the ingredients are prepped, and you're rewarded with a ton of flavor with just a small amount of effort.
Coconut Thai Green Curry Mussels
Serves 3 as a main, or 4 to 5 as a starter
medium yellow onion, finely chopped
finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
fresh Thai birds-eye chile, thinly sliced
2 to 4 tablespoons
Thai green curry paste
packed dark brown sugar
(13- to 15-ounce) can coconut milk
Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges, for serving
Steamed rice, rice noodles, or toasted bread, for serving
Scrub the mussels and remove any beards (see post here); set aside.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and chile and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add 2 tablespoons of the curry paste, fish sauce, and brown sugar and cook until fragrant and the brown sugar is completely dissolved, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer. Taste and add more curry paste as needed — you want the sauce to taste strong and concentrated, as the mussels will release liquid and dilute it as they cook. (See Recipe Note.)
Add the mussels, stir to combine, and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook covered, stirring the mussels every minute or so, until the mussels are opened, 5 to 8 minutes total. Transfer the mussels to serving bowls, discarding any unopened mussels. Pour the broth over the mussels and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and bread, noodles, or rice.
Curry paste strength: The concentration and spice level of curry paste varies between brands, so start with the minimum amount and then add more as needed after you taste the sauce as it's cooking.
Storage: This dish is best eaten fresh, but if you have leftovers, remove the mussels from their shells, discard the shells, and refrigerate the mussels in any remaining sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.