Oh dear, where has summer gone? It’s almost Fall here in Minnesota and you can definitely feel the weather changing. No Fall recipes yet, I’m still trying to savor the last golden days of summer by cooking and eating as much bbqs and seafood as possible. Like this Cambodian curry mussels.
I have a confession, whenever we go out to eat, if I see ‘Mussels in wine sauce’ or just plain ‘Mussels’, 9 out of 10 times I will order that appetizer! Mussels are like the gift of the sea (is there even such a thing…?); they give you more meat than clams and they are more firm than oysters…. amiriteee?
I’ve been cravings for mussels these last couple of days, but instead of my usual grilled mussels, I wanted to cook it in a thick creamy sauce like how they usually serve it in restaurants. I knew and you probably knew too, I was going to put my own Cambodian twist on it (I always do).
I made my own curry paste with a combo of lemongrass paste (kreoung) and dried red New Mexico chile peppers. Combined this fragrant paste with creamy coconut milk and you will have a savory decant sauce that will sure give those ‘white wine sauce’ a run for its money. Serve as appetizers or with a side of warm jasmine rice for dinner.
Lemongrass, lime leaf, galangal, garlic, and star anise are toasted before pounding in the mortar. By toasting your spices, you are able to pull out more aromas and add more depth to your dish. Once spices are toasted, add tumeric, and pound in mortar and pestle. Pound until it becomes a paste – Kreoung. Shrimp paste, lemongrass paste, coconut milk, sprigs of Thai Basil, and New Mexico Chile (hydrated in hot water, remove seeds if you don’t want your curry spicy, chopped until it forms a paste) makes up for the rest of the curry.
Cambodian Curry Mussels – serves 4, as appetizers
– Lemongrass paste
- 1 stalk lemongrass. To use lemongrass, trim the top and base of the stalks—you want to use only the bottom 4 inches or so. Then peel off any dry or tough outer layers before finely chopping or mincing.
- 2-3 garlic, peeled
- 1-2 lime leaf, minced *lime leaf are usually package in small bags next to fresh chili peppers in your local Asian stores
- 1 Star anise
- 2 slices of galangal root, *galangal knobs can be found next to ginger in your local Asian stores
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
– 2 dried red New Mexico chile pods
– 1 13oz can coconut milk
– 1 tsp shrimp paste
– 2 sprigs Thai Basil
– 2 pounds of fresh mussels
– Salt and sugar
– 2 wedges of lime
– French baguette or Jasmine rice for sides
- Lightly toast lemongrass, garlic, lime leaf, star anise, and galangal root over low heat. Remove from heat once most of the spices and herbs are dry. Add to mortar and pestle and pound. Halfway through, add turmeric powder. Pound until paste form. Usually takes about 8 mins, depending on your arm strength. I’m pretty weak. You can do this step in a magic bullet if you do not have a mortar and pestle, but the end results are the not same. You will get a paste like texture from the mortar and pestle. The magic bullet will just grind your spices and herb.
- Rehydrate your chile pods in hot water. Keep in water bath until soften. You can remove the seeds to make your curry less spicy. I kept my seeds. Chop chile pods until paste form. Again, arm muscle strength.
- Place your mussels in a bowl and run them under cold water. Rinse them to get rid of any debris or seaweed on their outer shells. Debeard your mussels and toss out open ones.
- Heat coconut milk in a pot over med-low heat. Once coconut milk comes to a simmer, add your lemongrass paste, chile paste, and shrimp paste. Stir and cook for 2 mins. Taste and adjust. I added about 1 tsp salt, 1 or 2 pinch of sugar, and a pinch of curry powder to the pot.
- Once your curry comes to a boil, add mussels, and stir. Cover pot and steam mussels for 5 mins or until all shells are open.
- Serve hot with a garnish of lime wedges and Thai Basil.
- Soak up the curry sauce with toasted French bread or a side of steaming Jasmine rice.