Saturday, November 2, 2019

Vietnamese Mussels

I am a very big fan of mussels; and, fortunately, the bivalves can be found on menus at many restaurants. The prevalence of mussel dishes takes on interesting dimensions when they are found on the menus of different ethnic restaurants and, to a somewhat lesser degree, when they are found on the menus of American cuisine restaurants who are dabbling in ethnic cuisine.  Really, if you want to see how a mussels are used in Italian cuisine (for example), the best thing in my humble opinion is to order the dish at an Italian restaurant.  Likewise, if you are like me and really looking to go outside the box, you would be perusing the menu at a Vietnamese restaurant to see if there are any mussel dishes.

The thing about eating mussels at restaurants is that most mussel dishes are overpriced. There are two reasons for this reality.  First, mussels have been relatively popular in recent years. Second, mussels are perhaps the most difficult shellfish to deal with. They tend to die very quickly.  While working as a cook at a crab house, one of my initial prep tasks was to go through the bags of mussels and discard the bad ones. Oftentimes, I would discard a quarter of a bag.  In other words, supply and demand.

However, one can buy a one or two pound bag (which would be upward of $7.00 for a bag), grab a few ingredients lying around the kitchen, and make a mussel dish that could sell for $12.00 to $15.00 at a restaurant. That is what I did in this case, after finding a recipe for Vietnamese Mussels. The recipe requires only a few ingredients, such as a carrot, scallions, a lime, fish sauce and sugar.  The end result is a great appetizer.

Recipe adapted from
Serves 2

2 pounds of fresh mussels
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/2 cup of water
4 teaspoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 bunch of scallions, green parts sliced

1. Prepare the mussels.  Rinse the mussels under tap water.  Tap any mussels that are open and throw away any mussels that do not close after being tapped and rinsed.  Set aside.

2.  Prepare the steaming liquid.   In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the carrot, lime zest and lime juice, water, sugar and fish sauce.  Bring to a boil.  

3.  Steam the mussels.  Add the mussels and cover with a lid.  Turn the heat to high and cook until steam pours out from under the lid and the shells are open, 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit covered for about a minute.  Discard any mussels that do not open.

4.  Plate the dish.  Plate the mussels, pour any of the liquid form the pot over the mussels, and garnish with the scallion greens. 


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