The last of my Lunar New Year celebration dishes was a mussels dish soaked in a soy broth. I don’t normally buy seafood because it’s too expensive, but sometimes we splurge a little bit for special occasions such as theme dinners. Since I was serving fish, I decided that a shellfish compliment would work pretty well. Obviously, mussels could also be served as a main dish, but that would’ve required much more mussels to sate the appetites of five people.
I like mussels a lot. I haven’t had clams and the only time I’ve eaten oysters, they’ve been fried so I would not say I’m an authority on shellfish. But I’ve dabbled in the mussels category. Usually, the mussels I eat are cooked in a white wine broth, it’s a pretty classic flavor profile for mussels. But that wouldn’t really work well with a bunch of traditionally Chinese dishes. Luckily, cooking them in soy sauce works just as well.
As with any mussels dish, we have to start with some nicely diced aromatics. For this base I went with minced garlic, minced ginger, shallot and lemongrass. On the herb line, I chopped up some mint and cilantro but that wouldn’t be used until later. In addition, I diced up a poblano pepper to add a little bit of spice.
Lemongrass is exactly as the name suggests. It comes from a grass plant that has a subtle citrus flavor. Lemongrass isn’t all that common in European cuisine. I’ve mainly only seen it used extensively in Thai food and some other types of asian cuisine. Because lemongrass doesn’t have a ton of culinary uses, it’s kinda hard to find. But you don’t need a whole lot of it so no worries. To prepare the lemongrass, I peeled off the outer layers of the grass that looked kind of dirty, washed it, and then crushed it up with the back of my knife as if it were a clove of garlic. After crushing the stem, I chopped it up to be added in with the other aromatics.
Now for the mussels. It’s advisable to prepare mussels the day you get them, but I didn’t have time to actually go out to the store on a weekday to abide by that rule. Mine were a couple days old and they turned out just fine. A general rule. If it smells fishy (no pun intended), don’t eat it.
Mussels will have some residual sand on them so you need to soak them in water to get rid of that. It’s best to soak them for a good 20 minutes to half an hour to endure that they’re clean. Find any mussels that are open before you cook them and throw those out, they’re no good.
Now it’s cooking time. I heated some sesame oil in a deep pan and added in the garlic, ginger, shallot, poblano, and lemongrass. I cooked this up for a good 10 minutes to make sure everything cooked down a little bit before I add in the liquids.
While that was cooking, I mixed together some soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, and water in a bowl. This would serve as the broth for the mussels and will be what helps me steam them.
I added the liquid mixture I just made to the pan and quickly added in the drained mussels to the pan. I tossed them in the liquid real quick making sure not to damage them. Then I covered them with a lid and let them steam for about 8 minutes. Gotta love how quickly these things cook up.
After they were done steaming, I added in some lime juice and the chopped herbs I mentioned earlier (cilantro and mint). Then I gave these another good toss and they’re all ready to serve.
It’s important to know that you should never eat mussels that are closed or that you have to force open to eat. Those are no good and they should just be thrown away. Unfortunately, mussels don’t keep at all so you have to eat them all in one sitting. So just be prepared for that.
And that rounded out my Lunar New Year celebration dinner (as you can see above). Thank god I got a plate for plating this stuff in a nicer manner than our ugly, old floral plates. Shout out to the person that gave this simple plate to the Goodwill so it could end up in my kitchen. Thank you.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 1 tbs sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 inch knob ginger, diced
- 2 shallots, diced
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 poblano pepper, diced
- ½ cup water
- 2 tbs fish sauce
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbs brown sugar
- ¼ cup lime juice (~2 limes)
- ¼ cup cilantro, minced
- 3 tbs mint
- Soak mussels in cold water for 20 minutes to remove sand
- Heat oil over medium heat
- Add ginger, shallot, lemongrass, and poblano to the pan and sauté for 10-12 minutes
- In a small bowl, mix together water, fish sauce, oyster sauce and brown sugar
- Add liquid mixture to the pan
- Pour in mussels and gently toss in the liquid
- Cover pan and let mussels steam for 8 minutes, discard any mussels that don’t open
- Remove lid and add lime juice, cilantro, and mint to the pan
- Serve immediately