Thai food is one of those cuisines that I never bothered to learn too much about as we enjoy such a high abundance of great Thai restaurants in Sydney. However, after spending a few weeks in northern Thailand over the new year, I developed a strong appreciation for the flavours and the culture and now I can’t stop cooking their food! It’s all so fragrant, well balanced and delicious, I’m a bit of an idiot for not learning how to cook Thai earlier.
This dish I’m taking you through today is Mussels with lemongrass and chilli. It’s incredibly easy to whip up and even easier to scoff down. And really, there’s nothing much better than inviting friends around to tackle a huge pot of mussels.
- 1 kilogram of mussels
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 5 lemon grass stalks, white part only, thinly sliced
- 2 inches of galangal, cut into 7-8 slices
- 3 long red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 2 tablespoon of lime juice
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- vegetable oil
- Holy basil leaves, roughly chopped
First things first, you’ve got to scrub the mussels and remove the beards to make sure you don’t have any gritty pieces in your meal. If you’re using live mussels (as opposed to frozen ones), discard any open ones and any that don’t close when tapped on.
Heat some oil in a wok or big pot at medium heat and stir fry the garlic, onion, lemongrass, galangal and chillies for about 2 minutes. Add the mussels to the pan and toss all the herbs in with the mussels for a few more minutes before adding the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, shaking the pan or wok frequently until the shells are open. Discard any unopen shells. Mix in the holy basil and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately with a side of steamed rice – it’s fantastic to pour the juices over the rice at the end.
While America, Africa and Europe were being extensively mined by beat diggers in the 90s and 00s, it seems that collectors have only recently turned their attention to the funky sounds out of Thailand. Collector/DJ/Store owner Maft Sai from ZudRangMa Records has been instrumental in getting the word out about Luk Thung, Molam and other forms of Thai funk to the masses through compilations on such labels as Finders Keepers, Soundway and Light in the Attic.
While I was in Thailand, I happened to stumble across two compilations: Luk Thung! The Roots of Thai Funk and Thai Funk ZudRangMa – both highly recommended and a great starting point for Thai funk. Not only do you get a compilation of some of the rarest and funky records to come out of Asia, both CDs also come beautifully packaged and include posters. One comes in a hand stitched cloth with beautiful Thai patterns and the other in a delicate bamboo casing. Amazing packaging:
The track I’ve chosen to accompany this dish is called Noom rai poor (kenaf farm man) by The Royal Sprites from the second Thai Funk compilation. I haven’t been able to find out too much info on this band, but they seemed to be a pretty big deal in Thailand in the early 80s and made a few crossover hits covering the likes of Boney M. Just wait for the killer keyboard solo that comes in two thirds of the way through. Stream The Royal Sprites – Noom rai por (kenaf farm man) below:
Light in the Attic have just reissued the Thai Funk compilations on vinyl so grab them while you can here.