coconut green curry mussels

Green Curry Mussels

Before I started working professionally (i.e. for a living) as a recipe tester and a kitchen assistant, and began to spend the work day hours making six to eight dishes in quick succession, I didn’t really contemplate why people who were cooking all day long professionally liked to order take-out upon getting home. I remember talking to one private chef and recipe developer, and I asked her what she was making for dinner that night. Her response was succinct – there’s a great Thai place around the corner that makes excellent pad Thai. After being on her feet for eight hours, chopping, sautéing, and cleaning up, she was not about to get home and do it all over again. And until I started cooking all day long myself, I didn’t quite get why. But the simple truth of it is this: after a complete day of cooking, even frying an egg on toast just seems a bit much.

You know what else is hard after being on your feet all day? Everything. It just zaps you – intellectually and physically. Your body sort of aches and grows a little heavy as the day wears on. You check yourself in the window on the train ride home and realize you’re a hot mess. Your hair develops a bit of a frizzy halo, your forehead shines like a beacon in the night, there’s some pancake batter in your hair. But you don’t care – you wear your fatigue like a badge of honor. You’ve earned it. And when you get home, you just sort of want to sit on your couch with your feet up and unwind a bit. And you’re so grateful that there’s someone out there who is willing to cook you food and bicycle it over.


I have always appreciated the work professional chefs do. Intellectually I knew how grueling their days must be – in addition to being on your feet all day, there’s the pressure of churning out perfect food each and every time. But my appreciation and deep respect for their craft is now visceral. You sort of have to live it to understand just how demanding the job can be (and my eight to ten hour days don’t even begin to approximate the hours professional chefs pull). I want to hug each and every chef out there if only out of sheer gratitude for their hard work.

nob of butter. yum.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I don’t make dinner every night. I’m grateful for having plenty of affordable take-out options in our neighborhood. Also, my dishwasher – I’ve found new love for it – that little machine just takes all our dirty plates and silverware and spits out clean ones – amen to that! Every minute of rest becomes precious.

Green Curry Mussels

So on busy weeknights, when we do cook our dinner, we want something that comes together in a reasonable amount of time, so that we’re not sitting down to dinner at 10 o’clock or later (hello, Spain!). And these mussels here feel like we found the perfect way to cheat the system. We prep the ingredients (together!) with Andrew picking the mussels over to discard the open or cracked ones. Then he gives them a good rinse and peels a nob of ginger. I busy myself with the lemongrass, the garlic, lime juice, and cilantro. We drop a lump of butter in the pot, and let it melt and get foamy before we bloom the aromatics, stir in coconut milk and the curry paste, and finally add the mussels.

Green Curry Mussels

And six minutes later, we’re sitting down to dinner. Six. Whole. Minutes. It feels wrong, almost like cheating – to put an amazing dinner on the table in well under half an hour, prep and cooking time included.

Green Curry Mussels

An amazing, quick, and healthy dinner that is also sustainable (can we have double points for that?) – this I don’t mind cooking even after a sweaty, satisfying, but draining day in the kitchen. Just so long as someone else can be on clean up duty – um, Andrew?

Coconut Curry Mussels
Adapted from Everyday Food

The broth here is serious, serious business people. It will change your mussel-eating life. You will want to dip your bread in it until there’s no more bread left to dip. But that won’t stop you – you’ll grab a soup spoon and eat whatever is left in your bowl, wanting more with every additional slurp. Delicately spiced, fragrant, and summery – these mussels are at their finest. Having cooked many different versions, I can tell you these are, by far, my, and Andrew’s, favorite. You’ll want to make them over and over – as we have – even on a night when you’re beat. Because they’re that good.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 stalks lemongrass, dry parts removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
3 tablespoons green Thai curry paste
3 pounds mussels, rinsed (discard open or cracked mussels)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. In a large pot with a lid, melt butter over medium high. Pound the lemongrass with the back of the knife to bruise it, cut into 1-inch pieces. Add lemongrass, along with the garlic and ginger to the pot, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Whisk in coconut milk and curry paste, stir to combine, and bring to a summer over high heat.

2. Add the mussels, stir to combine, cover, and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook until mussels open, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice and cilantro. Serve in bowls, along with toasted country bread or baguette slices. Be sure to discard mussels that aren’t open or that open slightly but refuse to budge any more without much force.

Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as an appetizer.


  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    I work in catering and my boss recently asked me if I cook dinner when I get home. I told him, “Every night,” which elicited a look of astonishment. Take out is perfect for those nights when I’m really exhausted… or sick. But, thankfully, my job isn’t so labor intensive that I can’t find it in me to whip up a home-cooked meal when I get home.

    This recipe is beautiful, simple and comforting. Always looking for another recipe for mussels and I’ll be sure to try this one.

  • markphilip11

    i felt your passion for the job cos we are at the same field…i will definitely try your recipe as we have seafood nights every thursday as my chef wants a bit of taste from the orient,and this is exactly what im looking for! thanks chef!!!

  • Radish

    Brian – which catering company? That’s great!

    Markphilip11 – it’s grueling, but so satisfying, right? do let me know what you guys think!

    Fresh and Foodies – try! it’s so easy and so tasty!

  • noelle {simmer down!}

    Too funny- I just made basically the same dish tonight for some friends! They’ve all gone home and I’m just sipping one last glass of wine and looking at my Google reader and there was your post. I didn’t use a curry paste but got pretty much the same result with fresh kaffir lime leaves, shallot, chilies, lemongrass, a splash of white wine and a few drops of fish sauce. Finished it off with some chopped cilantro and mint. I was so proud of myself for keeping it simple and stress-free, since I tend to go overboard when guests are coming. Mussels are definitely a high return-on-investment type food. :)

  • Alina Hendelman

    I can’t wait to make these. I know what you mean about the sauce, as sometimes I can just drink it! Coincidently my husband, kids and I had some incredible mussels at a restaurant in Santa Barbara last weekend where in addition to the broth they were swimming in, extra broth was served in a large mug on the side! I have a feeling your mussel broth may be “mug worthy”.

  • Susan @ SGCC

    My salivary glands are in overdrive right now! Those mussels look fabulous! We have a Belgian restaurant close by that specializes in various kinds of mussels, but I love to make my own when I can find nice ones. This recipe is going to the top of my list!

  • Robin O

    This is just a delightful flavor explosion! Mussels any way are a fabulous treat and this combination is a home run. I’ve made similar so I can just taste these right off the screen. Great simple recipe with easy to find ingredients. Ever tried them with spanish chorizo? Yum!

    I admire your dedication to your new found professional direction. It is indeed hard, hard working in the culinary fields. Bravo to those who make it their life’s passion. Cheers to you!

  • Gretchen

    I think that getting delicious food on the table in a hurry is a universal problem. I have two small boys and when they get hungry, they want dinner now! So sometimes the best dinners are the simplest that just rely on really great ingredients–like the recipe you provided here.

  • alicia

    i had a feeling this was going to be a delicious and i was right! just made this for dinner for my boyfriend and i and we were both delighted. :)

  • MJ

    This was fantastic! I think that the butter really made it too (in the aromatics and paste blooming stage). I’ve always been hesitant about green curry paste but this made the broth taste like an excellent restaurant tom kha type of soup (but so much easier!).

  • One Hungry Mama

    Like MJ, I’m always hesitant about curry pastes. I used to make my own (BK — before kids) but have found it too time consuming to do it the “real” way with a mortar and pestle with the rug rats around. :-) Sometimes I make the time, otherwise I’ve been using Maesri brand. (I like what Noelle did, too!) Miss Sassy Radish, what brand of curry paste do you like?

  • MJ

    This is so fantastic that I’m serving it again for dinner tonight.

    One warning! I’ve made this twice already. First time, with Asian store ingredients (Chaokoh coconut milk and a Thai paste that was very wet and aromatic in the can) was fantastic. Second time with American grocery store brands (Thai Kitchen? the paste was dry and dead in flavor) was not very good.

    Don’t waste those mussels in icky American grocery store brand sauce – get the best, freshest coconut and curry and then these will be better than restaurant food.

  • Radish

    MJ – I need to get proper green curry paste, I know. But my time-crunch right now means I have to deal with the American brand. :(

  • sarah

    so delicious – I used the “thai kitchen” curry paste that is not the best – but the fresh ginger, lemongrass and garlic really liven it up. thanks for this super simple but satisfying recipe – it is good and fresh tasting now, but would also probably be hearty and comforting in the middle of winter.

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