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. Lee Ping Chong

    Dear Jaden,

    I thought the first photo looked beautiful. I have to try this recipe because it is hard to find a restaurant that serves soft fresh mussels. Now, I just have to learn how to buy mussels.

  2. Kitt

    That looks delicious! I’m so glad you decided to foil the dastardly schemers who would keep this dish to themselves.

    I’ve always wanted to try cooking mussels at home but it makes me a little nervous. Your instructions are so clear and simple, though, that I am definitely going to give it a try.

  3. Kirk

    Hi Jaden – Who are you kidding, your photos always look great. There are dishes that I can’t post…well because I’m not much of a cook, and the photos just son’t come out.

  4. meeso

    Oooohhh…what a gorgeous blog!!! How have I missed this for so long…I’m very happy to find you! Can’t wait to check out all your recipes, the one’s I’ve seen so far are amazing!

  5. Rose

    You are the only one who thinks that your first picture doesn’t look great. It does, really. It is beautiful. Yes, we don’t see the broth but we can smell it with all the details you have given us. Hopefully your friends will fiend it easy enough to try it themselves and stop juggling with your camera settings…
    Will have to try it one day

  6. Mark Wu

    Why can’t I have (local) friends like you
    Seafood isn’t one of my favourites, but you make mussels more tempting than they already are!

  7. Karen

    Your photo is making my mouth water for those mussels – don’t be so hard on yourself!

    Steamed mussels are such a great, easy meal – I usually do them Italian-style with lots of white wine, garlic and olive oil – but the curry sounds delicious.

  8. JEP

    I love your writing style & details! I have never eaten mussels before. Your blog is all yummy eye-candy to me!

  9. LunaPierCook

    Mary brought it up, and I agree … what, you didn’t go get a fresh coconut and get the milk from it? 😉

  10. Carol

    Hey Jaden, the photo looks great, you are such a perfectionist (Just like me, I guess!) We are our own greatest enemy! I love seafood but am a little careful these days when it comes to shell fish, I had a really, really bad experience with food poisoning some years back. Great tip with regards to discarding unopened shellfish.

  11. Melinda

    Jaden, I would mess up your camera too if it meant you’d re-feed me such fantastic food. It took you 4 times to figure it out so they must be good at it.
    The mussels look delicious. Like all your tips for getting the right thing. You are always so good to tell your secrets.

  12. Big Boys Oven

    We love mussels. Your mussel dish looks very invitng and intrigging. We also love mussel especially green mussel from australia and have them saute with mince onion and white wine. Mussels are always lovely……

  13. Mercedes

    Mussels have to be one of my favorite foods, I don’t think I could marry someone who didn’t like seafood, I eat it almost every day! I usually do some variation on moules marinare, but I’ll have to try this!

  14. Ellie

    Oh, you perfectionist, you!! They look absolutely marvellous, and I’d LOVE to give it a try…except that I’ve never heard of or seen this clam juice that you’re hailing! What is it, and what can I make do with? 🙁

  15. caitlyn

    Hello Jaden,
    I just discovered your blog last week (through Ari at Baking and Books) and I am already a *huge*fan! I’ve printed a number of your recipes to try, and yesterday I made the Spam Fried Rice. It was very yummy — I’ll post about it tomorrow.
    The mussels look delish, and that first photo is gorgeous!!

  16. Meena

    Hmmn… a nice scheming bunch you have there! I’m not fond of mussels, but your version of the curry is begging me to give it a shot. I think shrimps would be my best bet.

    And the pics, who are you kidding missy? You know I’ll drool over anything you shoot, er, I mean serve! 🙂

  17. Coffee

    If this is not a fab pic… then what is my dear!!!??? 🙂 I am a vegetarian as I have said before and these things really dont make sense to me…. but the pic is appleaing enough. 🙂

  18. Amy

    The noodles at the bottom sound sooo good! Great tips about the secret ingredients too ;). As soon as I get my hands on some mussels I’ll be making this recipe. Thanks again for a great recipe Jaden! Your photographs are always drool worthy and this one is no exception! 🙂

  19. wokandspoon

    I love mussels and stuff myself silly with them everytime I go to my inlaws! One of my favourite dishes is moules marinires – mmmmm. But mussels with coconut milk and lemon grass! mmmmm – even better!!

  20. veron

    Ha ha, what sneaky friends you have. The picture looks good to me, those mussels looks pretty plump and waiting to be eaten. I’m thankful for this recipe, all I know to do with mussels are marinara sauce .

  21. johanna

    hi jaden, i have exactly the same problem! i love mussels and no matter what sauce i make, they all look the same in the picture… the sauce has disappeared, there’s barely a juicy muscle to be seen and it all looks like a pile of empty shells! yours is very succeeded, though… and it sounds lip-smackingly good! since i will be spending another 4 weeks in austria now, mussels are far off – no seafood to be had here, but i am feasting on loads of alpine snacks!

  22. Holly Chase

    Good morning, Jaden,

    Good that your give readers some coconunt milk selection tips. Let’s also remind them that they want UNSWEETENED coconut milk—not what someone might choose for pina coladas!

    Since many of your Sarasota-Bradenton (Florida) correspondents ask where they can buy Asian ingredients– we should tell them about:

    Phuoc Loc Tho Oriental Supermarket in Sarasota
    1944 12th St (just west of 301)

    tel: 941-365-0520

    The owners are Vietnamese and stock a wide selection of fresh, canned, and dried ingredients for the cuisines of Southeast Asia, China, and Japan.

    It’s a large, cheerful place with helpful staff.

    A bientot– Holly

  23. Dylin

    Do you think it will still be delicious if I substitute Manila Clams for the mussels?

    I think I might make this tonight for dinner!

  24. Jaded

    I love mussels, unfortunately my hubby doesn’t enjoy them as much as I do. I’ll definitely have to put this in the queue for recipes to try. I think your method of using the microplane to grate the lemongrass is genius! I never even thought to do it that way when I used to cook with it.

  25. retno

    Im not a Musselsfan, but your pictures… Im speechless!
    For coconut milk, I prefer to use Arroy than chaokoh. Ive found it more thick and contains more coconut milk than water. Anyway, Its just my opinion and may wrong.

  26. SteamyKitchen

    LPC- Did you know that Mussels are only $4 a bag- that feeds 4-6?

    Kitt- I think mussels are SO easy to cook – even easier than shrimp, since they only need a quick scrub.

    Kirk- awww thanks!

    Meeso- welcome!

    Rose- thanks for your kind words

    WC- little spiral snails WOULD BE SOOOO GOOD in the broth

    Mark- how can you be Asian and NOT LIKE SEAFOOD?!?? just kidding!

    Karen-oooooohhh white wine garlic…..thats my 2nd fav way to eat mussels

    JEP- thanks! welcome back. i haven’t seen you in a looong time.

    LPC- he. he. funny. veeeerrry funny.

    Wendy- welcome!

    Ninja- yeah…it was SO yummy

    Kat- oh good – I”m glad you can “imagine” the broth!

    Carol- yeah, i’m a perfectionist when it comes to food

    Melinda- ha! and I’d happily cook for you each time

    Anh- we are food sistas

    BBO- green mussels are actually my first favorite type. But I can only get blue

    Mercedes- thats EXACTLY what I said before I married him….but then he promised me fame and fortune. And I’m still waiting.

    Ellie- look in the canned seafood section. Use clam juice to make seafood broths or italian linguine and clam sauce

    Hey Caitlyn, nice to meet you!

    Meena- this would taste just as good with shrimp or lobster.
    hmm….might just do that tonight.

    Coffee- I promise more veg dishes soon

    E/W Kitchen- I love that curry paste. It sure beats making paste from scratch

    Amy- naah…YOUR photos rock!

    W&S- I’m hoping that you’ll post a recipe for that soon

    Isha- I hope you try it!

    Veron-sneaky snarky bunch

    Johanna- oh dear, I’d gladly give up mussels if I could be in Austria

    Holly- thats my fav store too. In fact, I’m going over there today

    Dylin- absolutely! Just cut the initial steam time to 1.5 minutes. Clams are much smaller and only req’ a couple of minutes of cooking

    Jaded- Thank you. I do that for ginger too. There is nothing more frustrating than getting fibers stuck in your teeth

    Retno- I don’t think I’ve seen Arroy at the stories. I’ll have to search it out.

  27. tigerfish

    I want to look for the clam juice here! I hardly see them 🙁 or just maybe…I have not looked hard enough :O
    This is indeed so drool-worthy! I would sometimes add lemongrass when I do a steamed fish dish too! I can now try these combination ingredients – coconut milk, curry paste, lemongrass on mussels and maybe other seafood.

  28. Susan from Food Blogga

    Excellent tip about the coconut milk! Though I must fess up: I buy “lightened” coconut milk. Still friends? 😉
    My husband loves mussels, so I’ll have to make this for him, with the FULL FAT milk, of course.

  29. Lydia

    Fabulous — and the photos are great. This is a dish I love to eat in restaurants but have never made at home. Now with your good advice, I will definitely go for it!

  30. suburbangourmet

    Ok, I don’t mean to sound weird here but please, someone tell me what Mussels taste like? I’ve never tasted then but want but I’m a little chicken!

  31. Lee Ping Chong

    Dear Jaden,

    Mussels are only $4 a bag and feeds 4-6? Inexpensive, yet elegant dish.

    Thanks for the tips on selecting mussels, “discard cracked shells and ones that dont close when tapped”.

  32. David Jenkins

    I made this tonight, and I will certainly be adding this to the repertoire. Wow! I used the same curry paste you picture (though considered the kaeng kua) and it was sensational! 2 for 2 tonight on great recommendations! Next up – the pho!

  33. kim

    This looks so tasty. Since you make it often for dinner parties, what else is on the menu?

  34. Kung Foodie Kat

    Hot damn woman! This sounds simply divine…what a lovely post to welcome me back from Chicago. Now i just have to find the energy to make it. All that tromping around at Blogher and sampling the cities good eats has worn me out. *sigh*

  35. Hillary

    “Crappy photo” yet it makes it on TasteSpotting with 40+ commenters drooling 🙂 Behold the power of deliciousness – whether the photo is perfect or not! Hehe. AND if I knew you, I wouldn’t let you be done with making this recipe! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  36. joey

    This is definitely getting bookmarked! My lord…what a delectable way to have mussels! I love Thai curry! And mussels! Ok…gotta calm down now…

  37. Lyrical Lemongrass

    I love your conspiracy theory. Yep. It’s probably that. LOL.

    The recipe looks simple enough, but I’m not sure if I can find clam juice here. I’ll have to think of alternatives, I guess.

  38. Malin

    I have newly found your blog, but it immideatly caught my attention and girl do your recipies and pictures make my mouth water! 🙂

    This mussels recipie made me do an invitation to a girls only dinner before I’d even tried the recipie out! It just seemed so delicious and easy that I felt I couldn’t fail. But now that I was going to buy ingredients I couldn’t find any clam juice (I live in the Swedish countryside). Any ideas as to what I should do? The asian stores here have no idea what this juice is. Might the solution simply be to substitute it with the juice from canned mussels, adding water? What do you think?

  39. ilingc

    Hi Jaden,
    Not to worry about the photo of the mussels. You can be sure that it’s still drool worthy here. *oops where’s the tissue*

    I’m worried that if I see the mussels photo that passes your benchmark, I’m going to need a new box of tissues on my desk. 😀

    My friends have (also) learnt this important foodblogger rule of no eating until the camera has been put away. Though now, the difficulty is to get them to come to the table when I’m done with the photos.

    ps. Sorry about the blogroll link. I have now fixed it up so it now points here. Must’ve forgotten to change it when I fixed up my own bookmarks a while ago. 🙂

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