Australian mussels are of the highest quality, are inexpensive, readily available and are a delicious addition to any Chinese-style feast. In this recipe I combine a classic Cantonese flavour profile, 'black bean and chilli', with several of our unique native coastal herbs, to add the 'taste of Australia' to my cooking.
2kg live mussels (approx. 40 individual mussels)
½ medium sized red capsicum
¼ cup peanut oil
7 spring onions, trimmed and cut into 5 cm lengths
4 ginger slices
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 large red chillies, cut in half lengthways and seeds removed
1 small red onion, cut in half and then into wedges
2 tbsp salted black beans
¼ cup shao hsing wine or dry sherry
⅓ cup water
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp white sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 red bird's eye chillies, sliced
2 tsp malt vinegar
10g picked native samphire stems
10g picked native sea parsley leaves
Native herbs substitutes
¼ cup picked sweet Thai basil leaves
¼ cup picked mint leaves
1. Scrub, debeard, rinse and drain mussels. Put mussels in a wok with 1½ half cups of cold water. Place over high heat, cover, and steam until shells open. As mussels begin to open, immediately remove from wok with tongs and place in a bowl. Discard any mussels that do not open. Drain water from wok and wipe clean with kitchen paper.
2. Remove seeds and membranes from capsicum. Cut into 1.5cm wide strips, then cut each strip into squares.
3. Heat peanut oil in the cleaned wok until surface shimmers slightly. Stir-fry spring onions, ginger, garlic, red chilli, onion, black beans and capsicum for 3 minutes or until fragrant.
4. Add mussels and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Pour wine or sherry around the sides of the wok in a circular motion, then stir in water, light soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and bird's eye chilli and stir-fry for 3 minutes to create a rich sauce. Finally, add vinegar and serve immediately, garnished with native herbs.
Always buy fresh, rather than frozen, and where possible select mussels that are shiny, black and heavy in weight.
Take extra care when opening the mussels in your wok or pot – we want the mussels to retain their plumpness and juiciness, rather than being shrivelled up and over-cooked.
I source native herbs from wholefoodshouse.com.au. If you can't get your hands on them, use Thai basil and mint.