icon Steamed Mussels Provencal
(Moules à la provençale)

People around the world have figured out numerous ways of eating bivalvia mollusca. Fried mussels (moules frites) served with fries or bread originated in Belgium and northern France. Moules à la provençale are mussels cooked in a flavorful broth of white wine, butter and herbs. The name of the dish suggests origin in the south of France (Provence), but it is eaten all over (very popular in Belgium for instance). There are many other recipes for mussels, such as mussels au gratin, which are eaten as a starter. In Italy, mussels are often mixed with other seafood and eaten with pasta (spaghetti ai frutti di mare).

Here is a recipe for Steamed Mussels Provencal (Moules à la provençale), a quick and simple but incredibly flavorful dish.


  • 2 lbs fresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter (health-freaks may use olive oil, purists will stay with butter
  • 3/4 cup dry, crisp white wine i.e. chenin blanc
  • 2 scallions or 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 green garlic shoots or 2 cloves garlic, chopped


  1. Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a large, wide-bottomed pot with a lid or a Dutch oven. Sauté the shallots or green oniosn until soft but not browned. Add the garlic cloves. (If using green garlic, leave it out for now.)
  2. Add the wine and bring it to a boil. Add the mussels in one layer, if possible. Cover the pot and let the mussels steam for 3-8 minutes. Cook until the mussels are open.
  3. As soon as most of the mussels are open, turn off the heat and toss in the green garlic, if using.
  4. Spoon of mussels and broth into bowls. The broth should be briny enough to not need any more salt.
  5. Throw out any mussels that did not open.
  6. Serve with crusty white bread and lots of white wine.
  7. Pairs well with Muscadet, Rieslings, Chardonnays and Chenin Blancs.

icon Steamed Mussels Thai
Having worked in Thailand, we found an interesting variety of this dish there, made with Thai herbs and spices, such as lemongrass, lime leaf, fresh coriander and Thai basil.


  • 1 lb fresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
  • 1/2 cup good-quality chicken broth or stock
  • 1 stalk fresh lemon grass, chopped
  • 2-3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1-2 fresh red chile peppers, finely sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp fish sauce, to taste
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander (leaves + stems), chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tbsp water
  • Handful fresh basil, chopped if leaves are large
  • Lemon or lime wedges for garnish
  • Handful of whole coriander leaves for garnish


  1. Heat the chicken stock in a large, wide-bottomed pot with a lid or a Dutch oven. Add the chopped lemongrass (including the upper stalk), and the lime leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-high.
  2. Add the wine, vinegar, chilies, fish sauce, sugar and 1/2 cup chopped coriander. Stir well and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add the mussels, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Remove the lid and gently stir the mussels. Check the mussels if all have opened. If some of them are still closed, cover and cook for 1 more minute.
  5. Reduce heat to low and add the garlic. Push mussels aside to reveal the sauce. Add the dissolved cornstarch to sauce, stirring well to incorporate. Sauce should thicken in about 30 seconds. As it thickens, gently stir the mussels to combine with the thickened sauce.
  6. Remove from heat. Taste the sauce and add more fish sauce if not salty enough. If too salty, add a squeeze or two of lime or lemon juice. If too sour, add 1-2 more tsp sugar. If not spicy enough, add more fresh garlic and/or fresh chili.
  7. Spoon of mussels and broth into bowls. Throw out any mussels that did not open. Pour the remaining sauce on top. Finish with generous sprinklings of fresh coriander and basil. Add lemon or lime wedges on the side.
  8. YIELD: Serves 2-4
  9. Pairs well with full-bodied whites such as Rieslings or oaky Chardonnays, or rosé.
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    Last updated: October 12, 2010
    Photographs from Wikimedia Commons used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.