I must confess to being a huge fan of mussels. These quick and easy to make little bivalve mollusks, which pack loads of flavor, may be prepared in so many ways, but I prefer mine steamed. Once considered ‘poor man’s food,’ mussels have definitely undergone a transformation of late, and you can see them on restaurant menues for as much as $30 a bowl these days. But why would you want to pay that kind of money when you can pick up a 2 lb. bag for next to nothing, throw them in a pot with a few simple ingredients, and create a completely satisfying dish bordering on the sublime. You will spend very little time in the kitchen, and be rewarded with a dish fit for a king (or queen).
Some people might be intimidated with shellfish, and seafood in general, but there are just a few simple rules when dealing with mussels. First all all, clean them well. This usually involves a small brush to scrub the shells, and some finger action to remove the tiny ‘beard’ which mussels use to attach themselves to tidal rocks. Since farmed mussels are popular these days, however, most of the work has already been done for you. After that, be sure to discard any mussels that stay open. Mussels are a live food that must be cooked while still alive (because they release toxins when they die), and their natural reaction is to tightly clench their shells together when disturbed. After yoou’ve steamed them, also remove any mussels whose shells have’t opened. Other than that, you’re good to go–so what are you waiting for? Go enjoy some mussels today!
Hoi Ma-Laeng Poo Ob is one of the more simple preparations of mussels that I’ve ever seen. Instead of steaming the mussels in the flavorful sauce, however, it is used for dipping. The only thing you have to throw into the steaming pot are the mussels themselves and some fresh Thai basil leaves.
2- 4 lbs. mussels, scrubbed and cleaned
large handful of Thai Basil leaves
½ cup lime juice
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons cilantro roots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 red chilies, sliced
½ cup water
1.) Place mussels in a steamer, over boiling water, and sprinkle with Basil leaves. Steam for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and wait 2 minutes before opening steamer.
2.) Meanwhile, mix sauce ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and set aside.
3.) Discard any mussels that did not open. Serve the mussels with the sauce on the side for dipping.