Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het

Truth be told – I love seafood and mushrooms; two glorious food groups that possess magnificent natural flavours and personalities that I just adore. Although other ingredients have their charm too – for me, there’s something quite irresistibly sublime about the deliciousness of aquatic produce (especially when they’re extra fresh), and the other-worldly taste and texture of the pseudo-meaty fungi, that gives a recipe or dish that special x-factor element. And when combined together, both seafood and mushrooms can make for a very special and wonderfully exotic meal indeed.

Not many people dislike seafood, unless they have an allergy to it.1 Part of the popularity of seafood is its signature flavours (sweet, salty, savoury and juicy), its association with the romantic sea, its peculiarity, and its difficulty in sourcing, which results in its often expensiveness – adding more to its allure and ‘delicacy’ status.

Mushrooms on the other hand, are more difficult to sell. Folks who enjoy it, cherish its organic, earthy character. Those who dislike it, do so for the same reason, especially when they’re cooked – where they can take on a new slippery, spongy, slightly slimy form, taste and smell. As a mushroom lover, I find it difficult to fathom why people dislike them so. To me, mushrooms are a deliciously divine and versatile ingredient like no other.2

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #20
Enjoy the mussels with a squeeze of lemon/lime juice and carb of your choice to soak up the sauce, in this case – olive sourdough.

Both seafood and mushrooms are rich in variety and there’s still so much out there for me to experience. If I had to choose one ingredient from each category to work with – what easily comes to mind are mussels and button mushrooms. Both are naturally delicious by themselves with distinctive flavours, and both are quite cheap and easy to obtain, being readily available from most local supermarkets in Australia. Also, both are not so weird in taste or appearance, compared to some of their other relatives.3

The recipe of this post - stir-fried mussels with mushrooms (kua hoi mussel sai het) - combines mussels and button mushrooms in a luscious sauce that is sweet, salty, umami and addictive. The flavours are enhanced by the aromatic properties of basil and spring onions, and lightly spiked by chilies and lemon juice, which boosts this dish’s personality.

The mussels and mushrooms are quickly stir-fried to retain their plump, meaty texture, making them a joy to eat. This dish is a dream to enjoy on a cold afternoon or evening (or any weather for that matter), and the sauce is just perfect to be soaked up with bread, sourdough, baguette, steamed rice or sticky rice, etc. Ideally, enjoy the vibrant flavours of this dish and temper its mild chili zing with a refreshing cold bottle of beer. It’s finger-licking good, I tell you.

This stir fry is essentially a basil/oyster sauce based dish with obvious influence of the fish sauce, chili, ginger, and other ingredients too. The recipe is versatile and you can tweak it as you please by omitting or substituting some of the ingredients to accommodate your palate. You can substitute the mussels with clams, oysters, scallops or other bivalve relative, and the field mushrooms can be swapped with other fungi, including swiss brown, oyster, black fungus, enoki, etc. Or you can do what I did in this example, and mix it up by combining both button and oyster mushrooms together.

I’ve included a preparatory step in the recipe that quickly steams the mussels to open them up so that half of their shells can be removed. Not only does this make eating the mussels more pleasurable, it also makes the final presentation of the dish more appetizing and pretty too. And as I found out, this is also a good way to inspect the mussel meat for any foreign objects, such as super tiny crafty crabs!

Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms (kua hoi mussel sai het) is a family-friendly dish and can be served to children and the elderly alike, on the condition that they’re not allergic to mussels or mushrooms (perhaps, there’s only one way of finding out?). Simply reduce the number of chilies or omit them all together, and be sure to give the mussels a very good clean first to get rid of any debris. I do hope you give this recipe a try. Bon appetit happy people! :D

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #1
Frozen green NZ mussels and fresh Australian black mussels. We couldn’t decide, so we got half of each. PS: How cute is that tiny conch shell sitting there at the top left corner? :)

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #2
The larger and heavily bearded green mussels and smaller/smoother/cleaner black mussels in their raw state. Because the green mussels are frozen, their shells remain ajar. On the other hand, a couple of taps on the black mussels’ shells, and they quickly put up the ‘closed’ sign.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #3
Wash, clean and scrub the mussels thoroughly. Remove their ‘beards’ and other loose/dirty bits. I used the blade of a small knife, the scouring side of a scrubber and my finger nails to clean all the dirt/crust and muck off the shells – tough work but worth the effort.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #4
Place the mussels in a large bowl and soak them in cold water for 2 hours. Change the water twice while soaking. The ajar green mussels sink to the bottom, while the closed live black mussels (which are full of air) float to the surface.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #5
Some of the ingredients required for the recipe. Not pictured are sugar, cracked black pepper and fish sauce.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #6
Prepare the herbs and vegetables: wash and halve the button mushrooms; wash and slice the chili, garlic and ginger; chop the spring onions into 5 cm pieces; wash and remove the basil leaves from their stems; wash and slice the lemon/lime into quarters.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #7
Drain the mussels.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #8
Place the mussels in a large shallow heat-proof dish and steam the mussels until their shells just open. (This should take about 3 minutes – keep an eye on them). The longer you steam them, the more cooked they’ll become and the easier it will be to remove them from their shell, however, they will also shrink more in size.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #9
When the shells open, carefully remove the dish from the steamer.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #10
Drain the dish and save the liquid from the mussels in a small bowl.
^Flavourful mussel essence.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #11
Carefully and neatly remove the empty half of the shells of each mussel. Discard the empty shells and put the mussels aside. By the way, did you know that the colour of mussel meat varies according to their sex? – the female is a deep apricot and the male is a soft cream/white – just so you know.4 Also, notice how the meat of the green mussels are a lot more substantial compared to the black mussels?

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #12
Meanwhile, whilst removing half of the shell from the mussels, I discovered a minuscule crablady (the size of a big pea) within one of the mussels – how peculiar. It was in one of the (frozen) green mussels, so I suspect it was already dead before the mussels were steamed. I’m glad that I steamed the mussels first and removed half of their shells before cooking, otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered this unexpected surprise. I photographed it and then buried it in the bin. Update: I did some research on this little sheila and I believe that she’s a ‘New Zealand pea crab’ (Pinnotheres novaezelandiae). Wikipedia says that they are ‘edible and were once a delicacy in the United States. George Washington used to love having pea crabs floating in his oyster soup. Mussels infected by pea crabs are also edible.’5 I must admit, they do look extremely cute!

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #13
In a fry pan or wok, heat the cooking oil on medium heat until hot. Add the chili, garlic and ginger, and saute them until they turn golden brown.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #14
Add the mushrooms and stir through for 1 minute.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #15
Add the liquid from the mussels, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and cracked black pepper. Stir through gently.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #16
Add the mussels, basil leaves and spring onions and stir through. Ensure the mussels are heated up are covered with the sauce.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #17
Taste the sauce and adjust to suit your palate. What you’re aiming for is a delicious balance of sweet, savoury, mildly spicy and herbal/basil flavours.

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #18
Transfer to a serving plate or bowl. Squeeze some lemon/lime juice on top. Serve immediately with extra wedges of lemon/lime and bail leaves or dill. Enjoy with bread, sourdough, steamed rice or sticky rice, etc. Bon appetit! :)

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #19

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #21
Wash down with a good cold beer. Deliciousness!

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Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms – kua hoi mussel sai het #22

Stir-fried mussels with mushrooms - kua hoi mussel sai het
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A delicious Lao-Australian stir-fry of mussels with mushrooms in a mildly spicy oyster and basil sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Stir fry
Cuisine: Lao-Australian
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1.5 kg of mussels
  • 10 button mushrooms (halved)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (sliced)
  • 1 knob of ginger (sliced)
  • 2 chilies (chopped)
  • ½ Tablespoon of fish sauce
  • ½ Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 2 Tablespoon of cooking oil
  • ½ a bunch of basil (leaves only)
  • 3 spring onion (chopped)
  • 1 lemon/lime
  • ¼ teaspoon of cracked black pepper
Instructions
  1. Wash, clean and scrub the mussels thoroughly. Remove their 'beards' and other loose/dirty bits.
  2. Place the mussels in a large bowl and soak them in cold water for 2 hours. Change the water twice while soaking.
  3. Prepare the herbs and vegetables: wash and halve the button mushrooms; wash and slice the chili, garlic and ginger; chop the spring onions into 5 cm pieces; wash and remove the basil leaves from their stems; wash and slice the lemon/lime into quarters.
  4. Drain the mussels.
  5. Place the mussels in a large shallow heat-proof dish and steam the mussels until their shells just open. (This should take about 3 minutes - keep an eye on them).
  6. When the shells open, carefully remove the dish from the steamer.
  7. Drain the dish and save the liquid from the mussels in a small bowl.
  8. Carefully and neatly remove the empty half of the shells of each mussel. Discard the empty shells and put the mussels aside.
  9. In a fry pan or wok, heat the cooking oil on medium heat until hot. Add the chili, garlic and ginger, and saute them until they turn golden brown.
  10. Add the mushrooms and stir through for 1 minute.
  11. Add the liquid from the mussels, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and cracked black pepper. Stir through gently.
  12. Add the mussels, basil leaves and spring onions and stir through. Ensure the mussels are heated up are covered with the sauce.
  13. Taste the sauce and adjust to suit your palate. What you're aiming for is a delicious balance of sweet, savoury, slightly spicy and herbal/basil flavours.
  14. Transfer to a serving plate or bowl.
  15. Squeeze some lemon/lime juice on top.
  16. Serve immediately with extra wedges of lemon/lime and bail leaves or dill.
  17. Enjoy with bread, sourdough, steamed rice or sticky rice, etc. Bon appetit! :)
Notes
Button mushrooms are perfect for this dish, however, you can substitute it with other types of mushrooms too, eg oyster, swiss brown, etc. Better still - mix it up!

Did you know?

  • It’s an old wive’s tale to throw away mussels that refuse to open after being cooked. Over 10% of mussels will stay closed, and this is normal. Closed mussels can be cooked a little longer or the shell prised open with a knife – unopened mussels are perfectly good to eat.6
  • In the mid 1970s, most of the mushrooms eaten in Australia were sold in cans. Today, Australians eat 95% of their mushrooms fresh.7
  1. I once had an allergy to some crustaceans (especially when eaten in copious amounts). I loathe that horrendous salt and pepper prawn weekend incident that left me in the shower with my body inflamed and face all puffed up looking somewhat like the Elephant Man (with all due respect Elephant Man – I’m mentioning you for illustrative purposes only, and believe me, if you saw me, you would have laughed too), scratching and trying to soothe the irritation down with heavy cold water, but ultimately resulting in me having to lock myself in the bedroom for the rest of the day, hiding away from my guests), but this did not keep me away from eating/enjoying them. I’m not sure what happened along the way – either I overcame the allergy, grew out of it, built an immunity to it, or simply have ignored its irritation – but today, I continue to enjoy seafood (crustaceans and all) (in moderation of course) whenever/wherever I can, even if it means a slight itch, scratch or irritation here and there, and all in the name of enjoying good food and living/loving life (as ironic as that may sound). []
  2. Think truffles and truffle oil, the highly prized mattake/matsutake, or morchella/morels, etc. (Although, do be careful – not all fungi are fungi). []
  3. Some people consider more is more, however, when it comes to cooking – to savour the natural beauty and flavour of ingredients, it’s best to keep things simple and minimal, especially when combining key ingredients together, hence for this dish, the two main ingredients are mussels and button mushrooms. To some, this combination may already be more than necessary. []
  4. Reference: http://www.australianmussels.com.au/portal/growing-mussels, http://www.purenzgreenshell.com/aquaculture/products/new-zealand-greenshell-mussels.cfm. []
  5. Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_pea_crab. []
  6. Recent research undertaken by Australian Seafood CRC verifies that 73% of people surveyed throw away mussels that have not opened during the cooking process. This equates to around 370 tonnes of perfectly good mussels being wasted each year. Reference: http://www.australianmussels.com.au/portal/images/stories/Mussel_Fact_Sheet.pdf. []
  7. Reference: http://www.powerofmushrooms.com.au/did-you-know/. []

Comments

    • 2

      says

      Hi Julie,

      Thank you. :) I know right – how bizarre! I certainly didn’t expect to see it – precious little mite. Must be a micro-miniature variety – the food world does not stop to surprise me. I think I will make a habit of steaming my mussels before cooking them from now on. Have a great day! :D

  1. 3

    says

    Beautiful, just beautiful! I really should be brave and cook more seafood (other than salmon which is all I seem to have), but I’m a little afraid of things like mussels and clams (not afraid of eating them though!).

    I love your description in the first paragraph :)

    • 4

      says

      Aww – thanks Emma, you’re very kind. That means a lot, hearing that from you because I’m a big fan of your work. You’ve made my day! :D I love salmon too and you’re right there’s a lot of sea (and freshwater) creatures (including molluscs) that look so out there, but the edible ones do taste very good (from what I’ve tasted so far). I find that seafood doesn’t keep very well unless they’re frozen or preserved, so it’s best to cook them quickly after they’ve been caught/purchased which is fine by me. Australia’s really blessed with amazing seafood so it’s a good reason to explore them further. Thanks Emma, have a great week!

    • 6

      says

      Hi Helen,

      Thank you for your visit. Yes, I love the distinctive smell and taste of basil too – any type of basil really, especially when mixed with a spicy/savoury sauce. It was a lovely meal albeit unfortunate for our dear crablady. :)

    • 8

      says

      Thanks for your visit Lorraine. Yes, I think I’ll present mussels this way from now on. They look great this way, and we eat with our eyes first (as strange as that sounds), and it makes eating them that much more easier. Strange – as tasty as they are, eating seafood can be so messy and fiddly, unless they’ve been filleted, peeled, shelled etc. Prising a mussel open while eating can be an eventful experience. Best wishes! :)

  2. 9

    says

    WOW! Your photos are absolutely making me drool. I love mussels but always failed to cook it at home. Thanks for this post, now I can finally start making my own mussels at home :D

    • 10

      says

      Thank you Nessy Eater for your kind comment – it’s very encouraging. :) I love mussels and they’re quite cheap and readily available at most supermarkets/fish markets, and really easy to cook too. This recipe works a treat and you can add other key ingredients with the mussels, such as mushrooms, etc. Be sure to give the mussels a very thorough clean/purge to remove any unnecessary bits. Thanks again, have a great week! :)

    • 12

      says

      Hi Jem,

      Thank you for your visit and kind comments. I really appreciate it! This is a tasty dish where both mussels and mushrooms shine. I love fresh mushrooms dearly – raw and cooked. The can ones are really tasty too, especially the champignons in brine – yumo! :)

  3. 13

    My Kitchen Stories says

    I love both mushrooms and seafood. Mussel are such an easy seafood to cook and reasonably priced too This seems like it is the perfect combination. I always feel sad when I find these little crabs in mussels.

    • 14

      says

      Thanks for your comment My Kitchen Stories! Yes, both mussels and mushrooms are easy to cook, delicious and quite cheap too. Both green and black/blue mussels are tasty to eat although the green mussels are markedly larger. The black/blue mussels in particular are great because they’re local (Oz), sold live, and with less chance of finding pea crabs in them, I believe. Some people/cultures eat and consider the pea crabs a delicacy, although when I was not expecting them, I found them a little surprising/confronting. From my research, it seems that the females don’t leave the mussels, and only the males leave the shell to enter other mussels for mating, so I assume that a lot of the ones found in the mussels are females. A little sad, esp. for the females, but that’s part of being a pea crab, I guess. Have an awesome day! :D

  4. 17

    theninjabaker says

    Gorgeous photos Padaek! Also, after reading your fantastic descriptions of mushrooms and mussels, I’m thinking packagers of the produce should hire you for PR =) Thank you for sharing the yummy stir-fry how-to =)

    • 18

      says

      Hi theninjabaker!

      Thanks very much for your visit and lovely comment – you made my day! :) You’re very welcome, and please visit again. Have an awesome day! :D

  5. 19

    says

    This looks like an amazing recipe, especially as I love mussels and mushrooms, too. By the way, did you know the same coloring rule holds true with scallops? The females are a golden-apricot color. Most people avoid them thinking they have gone bad, but they are actually the sweetest! I look forward to making this. I love all your beautiful photos, too!

    • 20

      says

      Hi David, thanks very much for your visit and kind comment. I appreciate it! This was a popular dish and I recommend it, especially if you love both mussels and mushrooms too. Thinking about it, I do remember the roe of scallops being different in colour but was not aware that this is because of their sex – now I know, and quite fascinating too. Scallops are one of my favourite food also, roe and all – most seafood really. Thanks again for your lovely comment. Have a great week! :D

    • 22

      says

      Hi Sara,

      Thanks very much for your visit and wise comment. :) I never knew they existed until now, and I probably munched on them in the past without knowing. They do look ridiculously cute and it’s a shame they’re not sold separately. Perfect for people who like texture in their food though. :)

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