I was backpacking in New Zealand around the turn of the year, and since I was on a budget, I bought at least one meal each day from supermarkets. Each and every store carried a huge selection of mussel products: pickled, fresh, smoked, barbequed or baked into pies. The common denominator was the mussel species: Greenshell, or Perna canaliculus. They were also called green bearded or green lipped mussels, but greenshell is the official trademarked name.
I soon found out that Greenshell mussel is a true New Zealand staple, and also a major export item. I fell in love with these Kiwi mussels, and was afraid I couldn’t find them back in Finland. To my big surprise and even greater relief, I found them in my local Asian market. Even the price was wery lucrative: €6,00 / kg ($3.25 / lbs), frozen in half shells.
Blue mussels are native to Scandinavia and Northern Europe, but they don’t offer much to eat. Greenshells’ meat-to-shell ratio is 3-4 times better compared to blue mussels. As you can see in the picture below, the mussels are quite big and meaty :)
When I was looking for a recipe for my Greenshells, I discovered a young Kiwi chef Garth Hokianga, famous for his trademark combination of healthy and delicious food. Garth has worked as a personal chef for Dustin Hoffman and the Sultan of Brunei – a resume good enough for me… And now, without further ado:
Greenshell Mussels in Saffron & Coconut Bisque
Serves 2 (280 kcal / serving)
2 fresh lemongrass stalks
1 cm piece fresh ginger, unpeeled
1 teaspoons oil
2 shallots, peeled & chopped
1 chilies (birds eye or serrano), seeded & minced
10-20 New Zealand Greenshell mussels (Perna canaliculus)
2 1/2 dl coconut milk
2 1/2 dl chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoons nam pla fish sauce
1 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt & freshly ground pepper
chives sticks for garnish
Cut off the tops of the lemongrass stalks, leaving a 10 cm bulb. Trim off the stem end and peel away the outer layers. Smash the lemongrass bulbs with the back of a cook’s knife. Now smash the ginger.
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium temperature, add the lemongrass, ginger and shallot and saut? for 3 minutes but do not brown. Add the minced chilies and cook for 30 seconds, then add the coconut milk, chicken stock, saffron, mussels and fish sauce.
Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mussels open. Discard the lemongrass and ginger. Remove from the heat and discard any mussels that do not open. Remove the mussel meat from the shells and set aside on a plate.
If you are using frozen mussels in half shells as I did, cover the unthawed mussels with cold water, bring to boil and boil for three minutes, counting from the first big bubbles. Then rinse quickly with cold water, remove the meat from the shells, and continue the recipe as follows.
Stir in the limejuice, add the mussel meat back into the coconut bisque and reheat gently over a low heat for 2 minutes. Ladle into warmed bowls. Taste for seasoning and decorate with chive sticks.