Sometimes called tinolang tahong or sinabawang tahong, gingered mussel soup is the most basic and the most common way of cooking fresh mussels in the Philippines.
Most people make mussel soup by adding the mussels to the pan before pouring in the water. I don’t. I let the water boil first BEFORE adding the mussels. That way, I don’t overcook the mussels. The fastest and easiest way to ruin any seafood dish is by overcooking. Unlike meat, seafood turns chewy and rubbery with overcooking. And they shrink like anything.
So, I add the mussels when the water is on a rolling boil. The boiling subsides after the mussels are added because the temperature drops. After the water boils again, it only takes two to three minutes for the mussels to cook completely. Here, let me show you how I cook gingered mussel soup.
I start by soaking the mussels in water. In the fridge. For about six hours. The shells open partially which makes it easier to pull out the beards. So I take the mussels out of the fridge, rinse them several times, scrub them and pull out the beards. Now, they’re ready to go into the pot.
In a little oil, I saute slices of ginger, a couple of cloves of garlic and a thinly sliced shallot. I wait until the aroma fills the kitchen by which time the spices should have slightly softened.
Then, I pour in water. Four to six cups for half a kilo of fresh mussels. And fish sauce and pepper to taste.
I wait for the water the come to a rolling boil before dropping in the mussels. When the broth (yes, it is broth at this stage) comes to a boil, just wait for the mussels to open. Count two to three minutes, depending on the size of the mussels, then turn off the heat.
Gingered Mussel Soup
- Wash the mussels under running water. Place in a glass bowl and cover with fresh water. Put in the fridge and soak to expel dirt, changing the water several times (see do mussels and clams need to be soaked before cooking?).
- Discard the mussels that do not open. Rinse under running water again. Pull out the “beards”. Set aside.
- Heat a large pot. Pour in the cooking oil. Saute the shallot, ginger and garlic until softened and aromatic.
- Pour in the water. Season with fish sauce and pepper. Bring to a full boil. Do not lower the heat at this point.
- Add the cleaned mussels to the boiling water. When the water is boiling again, lower the heat. Cover and simmer for two to three minutes. Do not overcook the mussels.
- Off the heat, taste the broth and add more fish sauce and pepper, as needed.
- Garnish the gingered mussel soup with sliced scallions before serving.