Steamed Mussels in Lemongrass Coconut Curry


Suspicious criminal activity of is happening right under my roof!  We entertain about once a week, usually for a weekend supper where we invite our close friends over and treat them to a massive feast.

They all know the routine.  When I am finished with a dish, no touching until I get a photograph.  With seafood, I make the photo shoot super-quick so that we can eat the dish while it’s still hot.


and I’m done.

I’ve had to make Steamed Mussels in Lemongrass Coconut Curry no less than 4 times in the past 2 months. Each time, when I review the photos the next day, the shots are terrible…the exposure is all off, the mussels are out of focus and the whites turn out gray.

My friends know that since my husband doesn’t like seafood, I will most likely serve Steamed Mussels in Lemongrass Coconut Curry when we are entertaining.  They know that I really really want to post this recipe because it’s one of my favorites, even the best restaurants can’t produce flavors like mine….and that I won’t post the dish unless the photograph passes the “drool-worthy” test.

These are well-known facts.

Even this morning, when I reviewed all the photos from last night, the photos came out funky. Everything had a blue-ish hue to it!

Hmmmmm…..something FISHY going on here   ::cue Mission Impossible theme song::

Come to think of it….my friends last night devoured the mussels as if this was the best thing that ever happened to seafood.  As if mussels were born to be bathed in the exotic flavors of lemongrass, coconut milk and Thai curry.  As if my friends savored the dish with familiarity…like when you go to your favorite restaurant and order your favorite dish every time…  I also observed a silent smugness amongst them.

Strange. Sussssspicious!!

Its a conspiracy!  Someone is messing with my camera settings so that I take a crap photo so that I MUST make this dish again so that I MUST invite my friends over so that they can eat Steamed Mussels with Lemongrass Coconut Curry over and over and over again!!!  EEEEEKK!!!!!

Well….I’m on to them!!!    So I’m publishing this recipe, even though the photo doesn’t meet my standards.  Out of the handful of snaps, this was the ONLY one that was in focus.  But you can’t even see the Lemongrass Coconut Curry broth!  The best part of the dish is the sauce, and my friends, you can’t see it so therefore you will just have to imagine the flavors in your mind.


Secrets to Steamed Mussels with Lemongrass Coconut Curry

So I’ll share the secrets to this dish with you AND hopefully my friends are reading this so that they too can make this dish at home and not have to resort to suspicious sabotage again.  Really, its a VERY simple dish with few ingredients.  The entire dish from start to finish takes less than 30 minutes. The hardest part was finding the can opener that I accidentally misplaced last week after unsucessfully whacking a coconut with it.

Secret #1:  Clam Juice
Instead of making a standard Thai curry sauce, I wanted it to be more “broth-like” – chicken broth would be too chicken-y, vegetable broth would be too vegetable-y, and water would be to water-y. Clam juice was the perfect solution.  To create a fragrant broth, I added grated lemongrass and let the two reduce down so that I ended up with a concentrated lemongrass-infused broth.  Use a microplane/rasp grater to grate the white parts of the lemongrass stalk (the bottom 6″)  If you don’t have access to fresh lemongrass, come over over to my house where the stuff practically grows like weeds in my yard.  If you don’t live within 60 mile radius of my home, visit an Asian market or substitute with lemon peel.  Take a lemon and a vegetable peeler.  Peel just the outermost layer of skin (not the white part) – get about 4 large wide strips.  Use that instead of the lemongrass. Just remove and discard the strips when the broth is reduced.  The photo above only shows 1 bottle of clam juice – but please use 2 bottles (I had already opened and poured one bottle out when “aha! maybe I should take a photo of the ingredients!”

To find clam juice – go to aisle with canned seafood…tuna, sardines, etc. It usually is there. It’s most commonly used in Italian Linguine with Clams Sauce dish.  If your regular supermarket doesn’t carry clam juice – try an Italian specialty market, or substitute with 1/2 cup white wine + 1/2 cup veg broth.

thai chaokoh coconut milkSecret #2:  The Coconut Milk
At your supermarket, you’ll probably find a few different brands of coconut milk.  Don’t bother reading the labels. Pick up each can, shake it.  If it sloshes with lots and lots of liquid, put it back.  Buy the one that sounds and feels solid and heavy. This is by far the simplest way to judge a good quality, first pressing, fatty coconut milk.  The lesser quality brands contain diluted coconut milk or they use multiple pressings, which results in very little flavor.  You might be tempted to buy the “light” version, but please don’t. In this dish, you will only use 1 can, divided amongst 4-6 people…so really, you aren’t consuming that many calories.  The best brand I’ve found is a Thai brand for 89 cents and Thai Kitchen (above in lg photo) at double the price but a very very good quality.

Secret $3: The Curry Paste
Use a concentrated Thai curry paste.  I happened to have Panang flavor on hand, but you can use any of the other flavors (Red, Green Yellow).  You can find these at your Asian market or order online through EthnicGrocer.  You can adjust the hotness of the final dish by the amount of paste that you use.  Start with 1-2 tablespoons and go from there.

Secret #4:  The Noodles
I love adding mung bean noodles (same thing as cellophane or glass noodles).  Once you finish digging through the mussels, you’re left with the golden prize – delicious curry broth clinging to the clear, slippery noodles. Slurp! Slurp! See more info on bean noodles at Temple of Thai.


Steamed Mussels with Lemongrass Coconut Curry Recipe

Servings: 4 as part of multicourse meal Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes

Another great thing about this dish - less than $15 in ingredients!


2 pounds mussels, scrubbed & picked through (discard cracked shells and ones that don't close when tapped)
1 stalk of lemongrass, white part grated with microplane grater (or substitute with 4 wide strips of lemon peel)
2 bottles of clam juice (or substitute with vegetable broth + wine)
1 can (14oz) of good coconut milk, shake the can vigorously to mix the fat with the liquid
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of Thai curry paste (depends on your spice level)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
3 small skeins of mung bean noodles, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes.
chopped scallions & chili for topping


1. Fry the curry paste: In a wok or large pot, turn heat to medium. When wok is hot but not smoking, add 2 tbl curry paste and the lemongrass (or lemon peel). Fry for 30 seconds to release its flavors. Add the clam juice, fish sauce, sugar and coconut milk. Simmer for 3 minutes. If you are using lemon peel, discard lemon peel. Taste the broth. If you want more heat, add more curry paste. In meantime, drain your mung bean noodles. The noodles should still be a little stiff.

2. Steam the mussels: Turn heat to high and add your mussels. Immediately cover with tight fitting lid. Steam on high for 4 minutes. Open lid, scootch the mussels to one side, add mung bean noodles and cook for another minute uncovered. Use a large spoon to redistribute the mussels from the top to the bottom of the broth, cook another 30 seconds and it's done! Top with chopped chilies and scallions.

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Comments 74

  1. Songbird

    Jaden, I am a certified food blog junkie! I recently found yours and I absolutely love it! Your recipes are interesting and straightforward, your writing entertaining and your photos are beautiful. I’ve literally read every post back to your first one and have already tried several of your recipes- with much success! The best thing was finding out that you are in Sarasota. I am too. I grew up here and ended up here again after grad school (many moons ago).

    I would love to know where you find your freshest seafood here in town. Sometimes, I get lucky at Walt’s, but I haven’t had great luck at the supermarkets. Their fish always smells like bleach! I can never seem to find nice fresh mussels, clams, etc.

    Also, what specialty stores do you recommend for sauces, spices, and other generally cool foods? I read the comment about the asian market on 12th St and will give it a try.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. SteamyKitchen

    Hey guys! Thats too bad that the clam juice is hard to find where some of you live. I’ve included an edit in the recipe that substitutes the clam juice for 1/2c white wine + 1/2c veg broth. Simmer that with the lemongrass or lemon peel and it should taste mighty fine.

    Thanks to all of you for your kind comments. I know I’m totally copping out by such a “generic” response to the last few comments….forgive me?

  3. marye

    yeah. 180. actually 180+..but dont tell anyone.
    and thanks for the tips on the coconut milk..I never knew that.

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  5. drbombay

    made this tonight and made a few changes. used only 1 bottle of clam juice, then 1 bottle of water with some shrimp shells thrown in. I used 2 T of green curry paste, but it was still missing something. a little more fish sauce (saltiness) which was probably due to the subbing of the water/shrimp shells (next time I’ll add salt to the water).

    otherwise, worked out quite well though I didn’t care for the noodles with this dish. too slippery. would prefer with rice on the side, with sauce poured on it, I think next time.

    otherwise, thanks.

  6. drbombay

    also used 1 can coconut milk.

    the way I was taught about making a thai curry, would be to cook the broth separate in a pot. in a work or 2nd pot, (do not shake the coconut milk!!) add the cream from the top of the unshook coconut milk to the pan with the curry paste. wait for the milk to release its oils. then add the rest of the skim coconut milk and the broth.

    supposedly, this makes a difference.

  7. SteamyKitchen

    Hi Dr Bombay, “cooking the curry” does release the oils, but doesn’t make that much of a difference when you use canned coconut milk. last time I made this I also used an entire can of coconut milk + entire can of curry- just b/c I wanted leftover broth to pour over rice the next day!

  8. Songbird

    I made this dish last week. We loved it so much that I made it again the next night too! I thought that the cellophane noodle idea was brilliant! We used these nifty chopsticks I found with little grooves on the tips. They really grab those noodles! My daughter slurped them up even though she doesn’t like shellfish.
    I have also used drbombay’s method of making Thai curries. (I got it from one of Nigella’s books.) Jaden’s method is certainly a little easier and I think it tastes just as great. In my opinion, the clam juice is the magic ingredient here. I never thought of it myself, but it gives the curry broth such a deep flavor. I did add a little extra coconut milk and fish sauce too. That is one of the great things about a dish like this – you can change things up a little and still have success!

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  11. Chris

    Will definitely try adding clam jce next time. I’ve also used a shortcut way for mussels..tomyum paste with water and tofu/ eggplant etc, put everything in a foil pan, cover with piece of foil,place on the BBQ grill…takes 10mins tops! One time, I was having a beer, sloshed some into the pan…extra oomph!!

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  13. blondee47

    June 5 2008

    Made this for the family supper tonite and hubby made special mention that i must thank you for this delicious recipe….and delicious it is (like i would not write you otherwise eh?)

    now i am going to make more sechuan salt….(posted today)

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  15. Jon

    Enjoyed making your receipe last night, mussels were excellent, thank you for sharing it for all to try! Question though…

    Added mussels to boiling broth, cooked them for about 5 minutes, and after taking them out to serve, noticed the mussels themselves were swollen and poofy….there was absolutely nothing wrong in eating them, they were very tender & tasty….wondered if boiling them at too high a temp caused them to expand?

    Many Thanks!

    1. SteamyKitchen

      They’re supposed to be plump! shriveled mussels = not as fresh. Nice, fat mussels is what you want.

      Cooking technique also affects how plump the mussels end up. Roasting in dry oven will cause moisture loss in mussel, so if you like a denser, tougher mussel, then i recommend in oven or even bbq:

      Steaming keeps moisture in and also allows the mussel to plump up and absorb some of the steaming broth.

  16. Nic

    Wow. Just. WOW. I made these last night and I just had to come back to say how phenomenal this dish was. There was pretty much silence at the table other than the “mmmmm”s, “ooooh”s and the slurping of mung beans. LOL The ingredient list is deceptively small yet the flavors are huge and perfectly balanced. I’m already plotting ways to use the base in other ways; I’m sure the possibilities are endless.

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  18. zafer cetinoz

    Hey guys! Thats too bad that the clam juice is hard to find where some of you live. I’ve included an edit in the recipe that substitutes the clam juice for 1/2c white wine + 1/2c veg broth. Simmer that with the lemongrass or lemon peel and it should taste mighty fine.

    Thanks to all of you for your kind comments. I know I’m totally copping out by such a “generic” response to the last few comments….forgive me?

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  21. Kim

    This recipe was perfect as is. I omitted cellophane noodles just because I made it my boyfriend’s friends and didn’t want them to shun the yummy noodles. Served it with bread and I broke in 2 non mussel eaters!

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