Spiced Blue Mussels in Coconut Milk

By  Milly Lambert

Making coconut cream and milk is easy – and the taste difference between fresh and canned is huge. If you don't have time to make your own, buy a good brand of coconut milk (such as Ayam) where the thick coconut cream settles at the top of the can and use that to fry the paste. Some canned coconut milk may not separate into a thick ‘cream’ on top with a more liquid ‘milk’ below, if this is the case, use canned coconut cream or vegetable oil to fry the paste. You can add some chicken stock at the same time as the coconut milk if you would like to make this dish into a soup.

Serves: 6 as an entree

Wine Match: Bleeding Heart Chardonnay



  • 1 cup coconut milk 
  • Pinch castor sugar
  • 1kg blue mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 x lime, juiced, plus extra for serving
  • Steamed jasmine rice, for serving

Spice Paste:

  • 4 x cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4cm knob ginger, chopped
  • 2 x medium red chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 2 x stalks lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped
  • 4 x red shallots, chopped (see notes)
  • 2.5cm piece turmeric, grated 



  1. Make Spice Paste: place garlic, ginger, chilli, lemongrass, shallot and turmeric into a food processor and blend into a paste, adding a little thick coconut milk if necessary to help it blend.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of thick coconut milk in a wok, add Spice Paste and cook for about 5 minutes, until aromatic and oily. Add sugar and remaining coconut milk and bring to the boil. Add mussels, cover, and cook for a minute or 2, until shells start to open. As each shell opens remove it to a large serving bowl. When all mussels have opened, stir fish sauce and lime juice through the sauce, pour over mussels and serve with rice.

Notes: If red shallots are unavailable, use 2 large golden shallots or 1 small red onion. 
Alternative species: pipi. 


Recipe supplied by Sydney Seafood School. 
Visit for more great seafood recipes and cooking tips, answers to frequently asked seafood questions and the full program of Sydney Seafood School cooking classes.


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