Lemon grass is such a funny ingredient. It’s subtle flavor is so important in Thai and Vietnamese food, but if you nibble on a piece it kind of tastes like Fruit Loops. As good as lemon grass is, it’s even better when paired with creamy coconut, spicy curry and fresh sea food. Mussels with Lemon Grass and Coconut is a dish that I absolutely love to eat and, luckily, my wonderful and talented husband loves to make.
You can buy fresh lemon grass at Whole Foods, Asian supermarkets and, of course, NYC’s China Town. An incredible Asian market in White Plains is, Kam Sen Asian Market. You can find groceries from every Asian country plus fresh seafood and a butcher. Kam Sen is like China Town condensed into one store, in a pretty strange and slightly deserted shopping center. But don’t let that turn you off. There are so many cool goodies to be found including fresh lemon grass and all the other ingredients for this recipe.
The last time my husband made this recipe he used a can of green curry with coconut milk from Kam Sen instead of adding the curry and coconut cream separately. It tasted very authentic and spicy. Kam Sen Asian Market: 22 Barker Avenue, White Plains; 914-428-4500.
Mussels with Lemon Grass and Coconut Recipe (from “Thai: The Essence of Asian Cooking” by Judy Bastyra)
4 lb fresh mussels
1/2 cup dry white whine
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 lemon grass stalks, chopped
6 kaffir lime leaves chopped (I couldn’t find these)
2 tsp Thai green curry paste
1 cup coconut cream
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
salt and black pepper
garlic chives, to garish (we skipped)
Clean the mussels by pulling off the beards, scraping the barnacles with a a knife and scrubbing them. Throw away any mussels that are broken or don’t close when tapped.
Add wine to a large pan with scallions, lemon grass and lime leaves. Stir in curry and simmer until wine is almost evaporated. Add mussels to the pan and increase the heat to high. Cover and steam the mussels for 5-6 minutes until they open.
Remove the mussels to a bowl and cover to keep hot. Throw away any mussels that haven’t opened. Strain the remaining liquid into a clean pan through cheesecloth and simmer briefly to reduce to about 1 cup.
Stir in the coconut cream and chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Then pour the sauce over the mussels and serve. I like having white rice on the side to balance the spiciness of the curry or you could serve over noodles. Don’t forget the Asian beer!