Blue ginger: the flavours of Asia at home, 192pp.
by Les Huynh
Murdoch Books, Australia, 2010
Cooking on page 32
I saw this tasty morsel marked down from $39.99 to $12.99, and once I looked at page 32, I knew I had to buy it. Funnily enough, I could have waited a week and bought it for $4 at the autumn Lifeline Book Fair.
Not to worry, I know I’ll easily get my money’s worth from it. I already have my eye on the salt and pepper squid.
Huynh spent his childhood in Vietnam with his Chinese parents. Food-wise, he is largely self-taught, exploring and experimenting with cuisines as he has travelled and lived in other parts of Southeast Asia. Today he lives in Australia and has restaurants in Adelaide and Sydney.
And what’s on his page 32 that tempted me so? Something similar to my favourite dish at a popular Asian restaurant in Canberra!
Mussels with chilli and basil
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) mussels
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) chicken stock or water
1–2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons chilli jam
2 handfuls Thai basil leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 long red chillies, chopped
1 handful coriander (cilantro) leaves
Wash the mussels well, scrubbing the shells and pulling off the hairy beards. Discard any mussels that are open and do not close when tapped sharply on the work surface.
To make the paste, use a mortar and pestle to pound the garlic, chillies and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a paste. Alternatively, chop the ingredients into a paste using a small food processor.
Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and heat until hot. Add the chilli–garlic paste and fry for 1 minute, or until fragrant, then add the stock and mussels. Cover the wok and steam the mussels for about 2 minutes, or until just opened. Discard any that have not opened by this time. Stir in the fish sauce and chilli jam and cook for 1 minute, then add the basil leaves. Remove from the heat.
To serve, scoop the mussels and sauce into a bowl and sprinkle with the coriander leaves.
How it played out
When I’m in Canberra on a Sunday, I usually dash out to the Fyshwick Markets about 4:30pm to grab whatever bargains on offer before they close for three days. About twice a month, I’m lucky enough to pick up live mussels for $7 a kilo. These are already scrubbed and de-bearded, which means this recipe takes no time to make.
So I made this as written using my own homemade chilli jam instead of Huynh’s equivalent recipe, which looks good, but I was in a hurry and it was on hand.
Easy-to-make and full of flavour. Love the addition of the Thai basil. Next time I think I’ll add a finely chopped small onion to the chilli–garlic paste.
If you’re a fan of spicy Asian food, check out my travel blog for the fabulous fish dish we had in Lijiang, China.