Mussels are one of the most sustainable seafoods and are very quick and easy to make with a little advance planning. The trick is cleaning them, but that has gotten much easier in recent years due to farming methods in which the mussels live in net bags instead of down in the sand, so they don’t get as sandy. And they are very fast to make because they just need a 5-minute steam to open them up. Here is a fun and spicy broth – be sure to have some bread or rice on hand to dip in after you’ve finished the mussels!
A word about the Korean condiments used here… you can buy them at Korean or Asian markets such as H-Mart. The red chile powder is called gochu galu and it does taste different from cayenne pepper in that it has more of a roasted red pepper flavor and you need to use more than you would cayenne. The hot pepper and bean paste is called sunchang gochujang and is Korean spicy miso. If you’re familiar with Japanese miso it is similar, but spicy. It adds a nice savory complexity to your dish. You can scale these ingredients up and down to your own taste – I use about half what it says in the original recipe because I’m a bit of a wimp with hot stuff. 🙂
KOREAN-STYLE MUSSELS IN SPICY BROTH
This makes enough for a dinner portion for 2 people. For additional people, add 1 lb. mussels per person and adjust other ingredients accordingly. For an appetizer, use 1/2 lb. per person.
2 lbs. fresh mussels, soaked and cleaned according to method below
2 c. water
2 T. vegetable or coconut oil
4-5 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 T. Korean red chile powder (gochu galu: see photo and explanation above)
2 T. Korean hot pepper and bean paste (sunchang gochujang: see photo and explanation above)
4 T. soy sauce or tamari
2 T. maple syrup
1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
Sliced green onions and/or chopped parsley for garnish
Equipment: Large pot with a lid to steam the mussels (I use a 5-qt. cast iron pot like this), medium skillet to make the broth base
To clean the mussels: Discard any cracked or dodgy looking ones, then soak in a bucket or sink full of cold water for about 2 hours, with 3-4 changes of water. (My research said you should consider discarding any open ones, but sometimes they are all open a little bit, so use your judgment and sniff them if you have any doubts. Good ones smell like the ocean and bad ones will smell, well, bad.) The soaking in fresh water makes them discharge sand and dirt. When you are changing the water, lift the mussels out of the water first. Do not pour all through a colander or you will just be pouring the sand and dirt back over them. After soaking, scrub the mussels with a brush, and remove any “beards” which are stringy things you can just pull off.
To make the broth base: In a small bowl, mix together the chile powder, hot pepper and bean paste, soy sauce or tamari, maple syrup, and sesame oil. In a medium skillet, add the oil and garlic and heat over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to release its fragrance. Add the mixture in the small bowl and cook over medium-high heat until it thickens a little bit. Remove from heat and set aside.
To steam the mussels: Add the 2 c. water to a large pot with a lid. Bring to a lively boil. Add your cleaned mussels, cover with the lid, and steam for 5-6 minutes. Check to see if the mussels have all opened up and if not, put the lid back on and steam for a couple more minutes. Pour the broth base over the steamed mussels and stir to combine, making sure to get some of the spicy broth over each mussel.Garnish with sliced green onions and/or chopped parsley. Serve in large bowls (with another large bowl out to hold empty shells). I like to serve this with rice or bread, which you can dip into the broth, and a nice big salad.
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