It’s a Thai dish but the similarity to the most common Filipino mussel soup is uncanny. Thai mussel soup with coconut milk has the usual spices and aromatics like ginger and garlic but the rich broth that is basically the natural juices of the mussels thickened with coconut milk. It’s spicier too with the inclusion of chilies among the ingredients.
A few notes before diving into the recipe.
The preparation time indicated below does not include the soaking time for the mussels which can take anywhere from an hour to overnight. Because mussels spoil fast, I prefer not to soak them at room temperature. It’s often too hot and humid in the tropics, and that hastens food spoilage. I rinse the mussels several times, place them in a bowl, cover them with water and let them sit in the fridge for at least six hours or even overnight. I rinse the mussels again, pull out the beards and they are ready for cooking.
The traditional Thai recipe includes vermicelli which makes it a noodle soup.
Lime juice is usually used in Thai cooking but since fresh lime is not always available locally, I substitute either kalamansi or lemon juice.
- 1 kilogram fresh mussels cleaned, soaked and beards removed
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 shallots finely sliced
- 2 finger chilis
- 2 red bird’s eye chilis
- 1 thumb-sized piece ginger finely sliced
- 1 tomato diced
- 2 red bell peppers cored, seeds removed then cut into thin strips
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 6 cups coconut milk
- fish sauce to taste
- 2 tablespoons lime or lemon or kalamansi juice
Heat the cooking oil. Saute the ginger, garlic, shallots, tomato and peppers until fragrant, about one minute.
Pour in the coconut milk. Season with fish sauce. When the coconut milk starts to bubble, add the mussels to the pan. Bring to the boil and cook for two minutes. Stir in the lime (or lemon or kalamansi) juice and turn off the heat.
That’s it. The simplicity of the cooking procedure hides a complex flavor that is just too wonderful for words. Just try it.