Cambodian Style Prince Edward Island Mussels
For these steamed mussels, lime and cilantro combined with chili heat offers an exotic character evoking the street food of distant destinations
NOTE: The original Mussels recipe, which called for 2 cups of white wine and 5 pounds of okra, was incorrect. Wine Enthusiast sincerely apologizes for the error. The version printed below is the correct one.
From the Cambodian restaurant Kampuchea in New York’s Lower East Side (read more on the restaurant below), these steamed chili mussels are served to perfection in a delicious white wine broth. Lime and cilantro combined with chili heat offers an exotic character evoking the street food of distant destinations. Read on below for more information on Kampuchea and its chef Ratha Chau.
1 medium red onion
3 stalks of celery, sliced
3 tablepoons butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 pounds P.E.I. mussels washed
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups of chicken stock, heated
6 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
2 tomatoes cut in 1⁄4ths
5 tomatillos, cut in 1⁄4ths
1/2 pound okra
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 Thai chilies, finely sliced
5 sprigs cilantro, chopped
3 sprigs Thai basil, chopped
1/4 pound bean sprouts
Heat a large pan over medium heat. Begin to sweat the onions and celery in the butter. When onions and celery are soft, add the garlic and let sweat as well. Add the mussels, wine and stock with 4 tablespoons of the fish sauce. Let simmer.
As the mussels begin to open, remove from the pan into a large heated bowl. Once all the mussels are out of the pan, add the tomatoes, tomatillos, and okra. Allow the vegetables to heat through and just begin to soften. Pour the broth, remaining fish sauce and vegetables over the mussels.
Add the remaining ingredients. Spice to taste. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
WINE RECOMMENDATIONS: A clean and crisp white will help balance the heat of this dish. Consider an Austrian Grüner Veltliner like the Hiedler Kamptal Thal 2008.
Cambodia is famous for its street food. Vendors line Phnom Penh’s bustling streets with carts and baskets full of offerings, which range from the sublime (delicious coconut-based soups and curries) to the ridiculous (crunchy and chewy fried tarantulas, snakes and assorted bugs).
And in the anarchic streets of this former French protectorate you can also find a divinely named metaphysical comestible: the Karma sandwich. Also known as num pang, the Karma sandwich is just one choice on an exotic menu created by Kampuchea restaurant’s Cambodian-born owner and chef, Ratha Chau—a menu he says was inspired by the flavors of his home country.
Chau says the menu at Kampuchea (founded in 2006 and currently New York City’s only Cambodian restaurant) features “interpretive” rather than classic Cambodian cuisine “It’s a tribute to the street food in the region, not typical of what you would actually find on the streets of Cambodia,” he says. “It is more representative of a culmination of my experiences in both America and Cambodia together.”
Chau fled Cambodia at six years old as a refugee with his mother and brothers, and says he has no formal training as a chef. Regardless, he has gained critical appreciation for his modern Cambodian menu, which successfully introduced a new ethnic cuisine to the notoriously tough audience of New York’s dining fraternity.
Ratha works alongside Chef Scott Burnett, who dubs the menu “progressive.”
“We keep to the spicy, acidic, sweet tastes Cambodia is renowned for,” Scott says.
“In our dishes we use a lot of fresh and dried chillies, lemon grass, ginger, shrimp paste—flavors