I came across a dish called moilee almost ten years ago when I was backpacking in India. Kerala was the first state that I landed in India. Moilee is a Keralan stew made with coconut milk. As there are plenty of fish in the Kerala sea, and coconuts grow amok in Kerala, fish is the common ingredient used in moilee. Fish moilee is also known as coconut fish curry, outside of India. I love exploring different seafoods besides fish. So I decided to make a mussels moilee when I can get fresh and juicy mussels from the market.
Mussels are a clean and nutritious source of protein (20 grams per serving) and a very good source of omega 3 fatty acids (which is helpful for heart health, lowering triglycerides and promoting brain health). They contain high amounts of trace minerals like selenium, iodine, iron and manganese which are important to support your immune system, thyroid function and bone health. They are also very low in calories and low in fat.
The traditional moilee recipe calls for some ingredients that are not easily found outside of India. I have modified the recipe to use ingredients that can be easily found in normal households or you can get them easily in your local markets or grocery stores. This luxurious and delicate coconut curry stew is quick and simple and packed with the flavours of Kerala. To make delicious mussels moilee, fresh mussels are a must. If you can’t get fresh mussels, you can simply replace the mussels with any firm white fish like mackerel, basa, bangus, hake, haddock, cod or even tuna to create fish moilee.
For this recipe, I use juicy mussels and serve it with gluten free and wheat free noodles. They are suitable for people opting for healthier options. You can also use normal rice noodles (rice vermicelli). Adding lemon zest and juice to the noodles creates some tangy and zesty flavour to the noodles to complement the mussels and great for hot and humid weather.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
For the mussels moilee:
- 1kg fresh mussels, cleaned and debearded
- 2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
- A big handful of fresh curry leaves. Around 15 to 20 leaves (you can substitute them with 1 tbsp of curry powder if you can’t get fresh curry leaves. Fresh curry leaves will enhance the flavour of the dish and release a deliciously nutty aroma when being fried in hot oil)
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp of ground cloves
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 3 tbsp tamarind paste or concentrate
- 1 tbsp of coconut sugar (optional)
- 2 medium sized red onions, thinly sliced into crescents
- 2 to 3 red chilies, sliced (adjust according to the heat and spiciness that you can handle)
- Around 2 inches fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
- 2 tsp brown mustard seeds (you can also use black mustard seeds if you prefer more pungent flavour)
- 400ml of canned coconut milk (fresh will be the best)
- 1 lemon, juice only
- A big handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- Salt to taste
For the lemon noodles:
- Around 200g of dried arrowroot/sweet potato/mung bean/edamame/lentil noodles (for gluten free and wheat free options) or dried rice noodles or vermicelli
- 2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
- A handful of fresh curry leaves
- 2 to 3 green bird’s eye chillies, split lengthways
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp brown mustard seeds (optional)
- Around 2 inches fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks or grated
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 4 tbsp coconut milk
- 2 tbsp desiccated coconut, toasted
- Handful of peanuts, toasted (optional) (can replace peanuts with other nuts like cashews, almonds for those allergic to peanuts or totally omit the nuts)
- handful of chopped fresh coriander
- Salt to taste
- To make delicious mussels moilee, fresh mussels are important. During the cleaning process, discard any mussels with broken shells and any that refuse to close when tapped (they are dead). Wash well under running water. Remove any tough, fibrous beards sticking out from between the tightly closed shells. Knock off any barnacles with a large knife. Lastly, give the mussels another quick rinse to remove any grit.
- Heat the oil in a large wok or cooking pot until hot and add the mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds start popping, add the curry leaves. Reduce the heat, stir briefly then add the cumin seeds, cloves, onion and some salt. Fry over a gentle heat until the onions have softened, avoid burning the onions.
- Add the chillies and ginger and fry for a few minutes. Sprinkle in the turmeric and coconut sugar (optional) and stir for another minute. Whisk the tamarind into the coconut milk and pour the liquid into the wok or pot along with 400ml of water. Bring the mixture to the boil. Then reduce to a simmer for around 10 minutes.
- While the broth is simmering, we can start to make the lemon noodles. If you are using gluten free noodles like sweet potatoes, mung bean and arrowroot noodles, you can soak the noodles in warm water for 10 minutes. For other noodles (including edamame, lentil noodles and normal rice noodles), put the noodles in a heatproof colander and pour over hot water. Or blanch the noodles in a pot of hot water.
- Heat the oil in a wok as you did for the broth. Once it is hot, add the mustard seeds if you are using them. Once they start to pop, add the curry leaves, turmeric, chillies, ginger, lemon zest, lemon juice and coconut milk. Stir well. Throw in the noodles and fry for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with toasted coconut, nuts and fresh coriander.
- Add the mussels to the tamarind and coconut broth. Cover the pan and steam for around 3 to 4 minutes, giving the pan a gentle shake a couple of times. Don’t overcook the mussels. Discard any mussels that remain closed. Squeeze over the lemon juice, sprinkle over the fresh coriander and serve poured over the lemon noodles.
Images: © Pooh Ling E