Spicy steamed mussels

It’s been sunny in Vancouver finally! Which means no more hibernating indoors watching the pouring rain outside in misery. One of my favourite chill weekend activities is to walk along the seawall and grabbing groceries at the Granville Island market, before cooking an epic meal at home. Recently I decided to make steamed mussels. Since it’s still cold, I chose to make them “Congolaise” style, as was made famous by Chambar restaurant. It is seriously the easiest thing to do as you just literally dump all the ingredients in a pot and 10min later, it’s done. I highly recommend making this. I served it with freshly baked bread that I’d made. I’ll post the recipe for that next. But there’s really nothing more impressive and deceptively simple, than serving up piping hot steamed mussels, and cracking open a crunchy loaf of bread fresh from the oven to dip into the spicy sauce.

On a sustainability note, farmed shellfish are one of, if not the most, sustainable seafoods you could possibly eat. They are known as a zero-input seafood i.e. the farming requires no input of any kind. You don’t need chemicals like pesticides or antibiotics that are frequently associated with fin fish operations in the open ocean, and no feed is given to the shellfish as they are filter feeders that eat phytoplankton from ocean water. When one compares farmed shellfish to vegetable farming, you could argue that even vegetables have more of an environmental impact in terms of land space, freshwater use, and chemicals. Why farmed and not wild? Let’s take scallops as an example. Wild scallops are found on the ocean floor and must be dredged up. Since the fishers are not exactly sure of where the scallops are, multiple passes must be made with the dredge, and this fishing method can cause habitat damage as it scrapes the bottom of the ocean. Farmed scallops, especially when farmed in suspended baskets or cages, are simply pulled up out of the water when they are ready to harvest. No dredging involved. PS. most of the oysters, mussels and clams sold in North America are farmed. So eat up!

The bread I baked to go with the mussel dish.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground fennel seed
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tb chopped garlic
  • 1.5 – 2lbs mussels
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tb chipotle puree
  • 0.25 cup lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cilantro to garnish

Method

  1. Heat up the olive oil in a large pot and cook the chopped onion. Add the spices. Then add the garlic and mussels.
  2. After stirring, add the coconut milk, diced tomatoes, chipotle puree, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  3. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, at which point all the mussels should have opened.
  4. Garnish with cilantro and serve with bread so that you can sop up all the delicious sauce.

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