Thai Mussels

I spent a lot of my late teens and early 20’s saltwater shore fishing. The only way my friends and I could live within walking distance to the beach was to sardine a half-dozen roommates into a 3-bedroom shack. The whole goal was to be able to fish, dive and surf the majority of the time without having to drive to the spots. It was a simple life. Combing the beaches of North County San Diego, there were plenty of options between the sandy shoreline, the structure-filled lagoons, and the long sections where hundreds of yards of reef would expose itself during the minus tides. The undersides of the reef fingers were always loaded with giant mussels.  

While it was always about fun, a lot of the times we fished because we actually needed to eat… so corbina, croaker, and even grunion graced our low-budget home menu. We elevated that in a big way when we went spearfishing or kayak fishing, but when we only had 45 minutes to catch, gut, gill and cook dinner after school or work, it was a bit more limited. And if we did target those corbina and croaker – mussels were the ticket. While sand crabs are considered one of the top baits, I have always had success with mussels. During the low tides, we’d crawl under the reef overhangs and pluck mussels the size of a russet potato and use the long, gummy “lip” to entice the inshore species. Then, as I got older, I realized how good they were to eat.  

Next Recipe: Gravlax

Mussels get picked on and kicked around the block, especially by other types of shellfish. For example, clams and mussels are a specific case of apples and oranges; they should be treated accordingly. They grow differently, eat differently, and therefore look and taste different. And considering they are delicious and inexpensive (relative to clams), this recipe is dedicated to the underutilized, underserved, and underappreciated mussel! 

carlsbad aquafarm

Most mussels around here are brought in from the Pacific Northwest (Washington State and Canada) and the ones that aren’t are typically from Aqua Farms. Baja is ramping up and, if you didn’t know, one of the oldest Aqua Farms around in our California region is right in Carlsbad. The process at Carlsbad Aquafarm is streamlined and nothing short of amazing. They offer tours and tastings and, for sure, will be the subject of one of my future presentations. After eating all the clean, ice-cold oysters I could, I left with two pounds of pristine Carlsbad Aquafarm mussels.  

While some folks still look at cooked mussels and curl their upper lips, the good news is that there are other ways to eat them than just straight up. Fritters, chowders, croquettes, and beyond, there are a lot of ways to enjoy them. That said, today is not about hiding the ingredient, so here’s today’s plan… 

ingredients for cooking thai mussels
ingredients prepped for thai mussels
thai mussels plated
thai mussels with baguette

Recipe: Thai Mussels

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  • Mussels:
  • 2-3 pounds of mussels - scrubbed clean and de-bearded
  • Bowl of cold water
  • Broth Produce:
  • 1 small onion or large shallot - chopped
  • 1 large finger of ginger, peeled and minced (be generous)
  • 3 cloves of garlic - peeled and minced
  • Handful of Thai chilis - minced (to your spice level)
  • 6 long green onions (white ends chopped for sautéing and green ends chopped for garnish)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass - whole, but smashed
  • Juice of 6 key limes (small)
  • Broth Additions:
  • 1 TBSP B & O Persian Lime EVOO for sautéing
  • 1 bottle yellow curry sauce
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ½ can coconut cream (or small can)
  • 1 carton vegetable stock
  • 1-2 TBSP fish sauce
  • Ziobaffa pinot griggio (or similar)
  • 1 TBSP B & O coconut balsamic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cilantro and green onions for garnish
  • Baguette:
  • 1-2 Praeger Epi Baguettes – heated and crunchy


  1. Start by putting cleaned/scrubbed mussels in cold water and let them purge anything left over in their system. You can do this well in advance as long as you keep changing water so it’s cold and clean.
  2. After prepping all ingredients, start by adding the oil to the pot over medium heat and sauté the onions, ginger, chilis, and lemongrass with some salt and pepper for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the white wine to deglaze, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Pour in your stock and bring to a light boil, then add coconut milk/cream, yellow curry sauce, and fish sauce.
  5. The mussels will release additional liquid/flavor/salinity, but this is roughly how the broth will taste (except lime juice added later for acidity), so adjust now. Everyone will be dipping into the broth, so make sure it tastes good!
  6. Drain the mussels from the water, give them one more rinse to avoid any sandy grit, and remove all mussels that are already open. That typically means they are dead, so chuck the open ones, so nobody gets sick. Mussels should be closed at the time of cooking.
  7. Drop the mussels into the simmering broth and close the lid; check after a few minutes and give them a shake. Keep checking and giving a little shake/stir every minute. You do not want to overcook mussels, so once the vast majority are popped open, remove them from the heat and dump into a large family-style serving bowl.
  8. Add the fresh lime juice stirring thoroughly, and then sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and green onions. The lime juice is a vital ingredient, so don’t forget it. If there’s more than a few people, provide bowls and a ladle for individual servings… and a few empty dishes for the shells. The Epi Baguette is convenient because it’s made to break into portions, so serve it hot and dip away. Side tip - whatever broth is not consumed, save it for a different recipe or even a marinade.
Let’s just say, Adam Traubman could use a few more hours in each day. “Trout” can’t go more than 24 hours without fishing, surfing, paddling, diving, anything without getting the wiggles. So with a wife, three kids, two dogs, three snakes, an organic garden AND work... the man has his work c...
Doing that one tonight, love the ideas keep em coming!
@ProteusTails We appreciate you! This is a good one, enjoy!
Nice write up; intro story moving on to the meal prep complimented with descriptive photos!

Ingredients list is necessary, but daunting to assemble common with good Thai & Indian recipes. It’s a commitment.

I like to make mussels with similar cleaning process you described then cook them in white wine (almost any dry / Chardonnay type), a stick of butter and a couple minced garlic cloves. Served with warm French bread for dipping. Very affordable!!