The Secret Ingredient (Curry): Bombay Mussels with Peas Recipe

The Secret Ingredient

Every month we highlight a different ingredient and share weekly recipes that showcase its uses.

The Secret Ingredient (Curry): Bombay Mussels with Peas Recipe

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

I love Indian food, and I think my love for it might stem from its mystery—at least, as far as I perceive it. It feels unattainable to me, like the bad boy in the leather jacket at the back of the cafeteria. My good friend the English food writer Pinky Lilani once invited me to her home for an Indian cooking lesson, and she whipped out a box of spices; to one who had cooked little Indian food before, it was like staring into an alchemist's treasure trove. I had no idea how to use them.

Cooking with Indian spices is a bit like tight-rope walking for me—it's really hard to balance. But curry is a blend, of many things, most often turmeric, coriander, red pepper, and cumin, which gives it that verdant, smoky, earthy, spicy scent. For this dish, all my components are already figured out for me. While a perfect Vindaloo, say, would take me considerably more time and study, all I have to do for these Bombay mussels is add curry powder, and attain something of that heady curry house flavor.

One of my favorite things to order at Indian restaurants is the seafood. I love the way the spices play with the sweet tenderness of prawns and scallops and sea bass. But this time, I decided to make mussels. I temper the curry and green onions with a dash of butter and cream, and stew up the mussels with springtime green peas, which add sweetness and color and that lovely fresh pop in your mouth. Instead of baguette, I warm up naan breads to soak up the juices. It's so unusual and lovely and easy.

  • Yield:serves 4 to start, 2 as a main course
  • Active time: 10 minutes
  • Total time:10 minutes, plus 1 hour for soaking the mussels


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cup thawed frozen peas
  • 2 pounds mussels, soaked for an hour in a bowl of water with a spoonful of flour and a handful of ice
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Naan bread for serving


  1. 1.

    In a high-sided braising pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the scallions, and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the curry powder, and sauté an additional 30 seconds. Add the water, peas, and mussels to the pot, and season with salt and pepper. Cover, and steam over medium heat until all mussels open, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the cream, and serve with warm naan.