This recipe combines one of my personal favorite dishes along with something for which I have a new-found appreciation: Panang curry and mussels. Since first tasting it many years ago, Panang curry has long been my favorite Thai curry. I love the way that the creamy coconut milk mellows the fiery heat of the red chilies. Kaffir leaves, which are used in Panang, add a hint of citrus sharpness.
I’ve prepared mussels many times before, but I’ve recently rediscovered my appreciation for them. They are a cinch to prepare. Just throw them in a pot of boiling broth, and in 10 minutes, dinner is served . I admit, they do take some work to clean, however, since most of the mussels nowadays are farmed, the once gritty task of cleaning has become less of a chore. If you’re lucky enough to have the task of cleaning mussels during a state of cooking bliss, you might find it somehow relaxing and theraputic. It can feel as if you’re cleaning soft onyx river rocks. Even the sound of a steady, slow stream of water falling into a bowl of mussels clattering as you clean them can somehow offer some culinary-zen, couldn’t it?
I prepared my latest pot of mussels with quinoa, which not only added protein but perhaps more importantly, served as a vehicle for soaking up the creamy broth. Instead of quinoa, you can serve the mussels with rice vermicelli, which cooks in a mere 3 minutes; or better yet, as an even quicker alternative to getting this meal on your table, you might also consider soaking up the broth with a crusty baguette.
Mussels in Panang Curry
Serves 2 - 4
- 2 ½- 3 pounds mussels cleaned and beards removed
- ½ medium Spanish onion, diced, about 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons Panang curry paste
- 1 can coconut milk, about 14 ounces
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar (I used Demerara)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 3-4 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
- 1 long Thai red chili, seeded and minced (optional)
- 1 ½ cups uncooked black, white or red quinoa
Prepare the quinoa according to packaging instructions.
In a large pot over medium heat sauté the onions, olive oil and sea salt until the onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Next, add the Panang curry paste and stir to combine. Then, slowly add the coconut milk and stir until the curry paste is evenly distributed and the sauce is uniform in color. Next, add the brown sugar, fish sauce and lime leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once the curry comes to a boil, add the cleaned mussels, clamp on a lid, and cook them for 7-10 minutes. Once the mussels have cooked, garnish with cilantro and chilies. Serve the mussels on a bed of quinoa and a ladle-full of the curry sauce.