In Vietnam, I had this with the vegetable morning glory, but it can be hard to find in the UK. Watercress is not the same, but works well. Try to source it in bunches rather than bags, as it is usually much fresher. Or you can leave it out and have just the mussels and the broth. Serves 6 as
a starter, or as part of a mixture of dishes.
- 1.2kg mussels
- 2cm square piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 3 stalks lemongrass, bashed and sliced thinly lengthwise
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 red bird’s eye chilli, sliced (deseeded or not, depending on how much heat you want)
- 2tbsp fish sauce (or to taste)
- ½-1tbsp sugar (or to taste)
- 1 lime, juice (or to taste)
- 100g watercress
- 15g Thai basil, leaves picked, to serve
- Wash the mussels really well, scrubbing off any barnacles and removing any ‘beards’. Tap each one on the side of the sink – if it does not close when you tap it, throw it away.
- In a large pan, bring 300ml water to just below boiling point. Turn the heat down to medium and add the mussels. Cover and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the mussels have opened, shaking the pan a few times. Strain the cooking liquor from the mussels into a bowl, leaving the mussels in the colander. Throw away any that have not opened.
- Strain the cooking liquor into a clean pan through a sieve lined with muslin or a new J-cloth. Add the ginger, lemongrass, garlic and chilli, and 400ml water. Bring to the boil. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, then taste. You want a broth that is quite strong but not too salty – you can add more water if you wish, or simmer to reduce.
- Add the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice to taste – remember that you will be returning the mussels to the broth and you want a balance of salty, sour and slightly sweet.
- Cook the watercress in the broth for about 2 minutes, or until wilted. Add the mussels, heat through quickly and serve in bowls, garnished with the Thai basil leaves.