I’m excited to have a few good posts in store for you, including this Vietnamese Mussels & Prawns in Coconut Broth. I’ve been busy – between the tax season, being away, getting sick and everything in between, I still cooked up a storm, but saved the pleasure of writing for a quiet day like this one. Spring is almost here, I think, and that’s pretty exciting for a part of the world that sees 5 months of winter. By this time of the year, everyone is quietly sick of the snow and praying for some warm rays of sunshine. Fingers crossed.
So last week, I had the good fortune of stumbling upon this quick and awesome mussel (awesome-mussel!) recipe. This is the sort of thing that started this blog – we absolutely loved it, adapted it to our own cooking style and needed to remember how to make it.
This dish uses coconut juice as the broth – its first boiled on its own and infused with ginger, red Thai chilies and garlic. It’s later strained and further cooked in a wok with yet more chilies, garlic and the seafood. The flavor made me raise my eyebrows – I enjoyed the seafood, but I was really surprised by how delicious the sauce turned out to be. Be warned, it’s hot – a punch in the face of bold flavor, but a pleasant punch 🙂
If you don’t have access to all the herbs called for in this recipe, simply use the basil and cilantro. But it’s worthwhile to investigate local markets – these herbs really lift the dish with their aroma and freshness, plus they’re extremely healthy.
The mussels must either be impeccably fresh, or don’t use them at all. Because we’re land-locked and fresh mussels are usually a gamble, I started buying them frozen on the half-shell. I let them defrost in the fridge overnight, or put them in a plastic bag and run cold water over them in the sink.
Let’s make this:
- 1½ tablespoons grapeseed oil, or other low smoke-point oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 clove shallot, or scallions - white parts only, finely minced
- 3 red Thai chilies, finely chopped
- 1 lb mussels (washed and bearded), whole, or on the half shell
- 12-16 tiger prawns, shelled and deveined
- Vietnamese Herbs (Leaves Only)
- 6 stalks of Thai basil
- 2 stalks of sawtooth coriander
- 1 stalk of perilla
- 3 stalks of peppermint
- 2 stalks of rice paddy herb
- cilantro, to garnish
- For the broth:
- 3 cups of coconut juice
- ½ inch ginger (lightly pounded)
- 1 inch kachai rhizome, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed, and finely chopped
- 3 red Thai chilies (smashed)
- ½ teaspoon lime zest
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- Add all ingredients to a small stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and let rest for at least 15 minutes, then strain the broth and set it aside. Discard the strained ingredients.
- Heat a wok until almost smoking, then add the prawns, quickly distributing them evenly so each touches the wok directly. Don't turn over. Let cook on one side for about a minute - and turn over when no longer opaque. Remove from the wok when done and set aside.
- Turn down the heat the wok to medium-high and add the oil, let it heat up for a moment, then add the minced garlic, shallots and chilies. Stir fry until lightly browned, then increase the heat to high and pour in the broth. Mix well, the broth should be boiling and bubbling now. Add the mussels and herbs and cook, covered, for 3 minutes. (If you're using fresh mussels, cook until all mussels are open).
- Remove the cover, turn off the heat. Add the prawns to the broth and pour over the sauce.
- Serve with rice and garnish with cilantro.
Adapted from “Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges”