Sometimes I crave simple mussels preparations like this one, where all you need is a hot iron skillet, a few cracks of a black pepper, and salt. But just as often I crave something complex and fiery, like this incredible recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail. To be sure, this is no tame dinner. Between the seven cloves of garlic, the wallop of cayenne pepper and paprika, and the earthiness of cumin, coriander, and tamarind paste, this ended up being one of the most flavorful bowls of mussels I've ever encountered.
What's astonishing is that nothing here reaches too far. It's not too heavy, too aggressive, or too spicy. That's probably due to the coconut milk, which helps balance all the elements. The hardest ingredient to track down is probably the tamarind paste. If you can't find it, lemon juice will help lend a little of the bracing acidity, but it'll miss the complex bitterness. Fortunately, this recipe has flavor to spare.
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 7 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons tamarind paste (or 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 14-ounce can coconut milk, well shaken
- 2 pounds mussels, cleaned, beards removed
Heat oil in large lidded saucepan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add onions. Stir often with a wooden spoon, and cook for about five minutes, or until onions turn translucent.
Add ginger and garlic. Continue stirring, and cook for one minute, until very fragrant. Then add cayenne pepper, paprika, turmeric, cumin, and coriander. Cook for 10 seconds, and then add tamarind paste, salt, coconut milk, and two cups of water. Stir well, and bring to a simmer. Cover saucepan, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Increase heat to medium. Add mussels, cover again, and let simmer vigorously for about 5 minutes, or until mussels have opened up. Discard any mussels that don’t open.
Serve mussels and sauce with naan or white rice.