Muscat is about to go mad for mussels, a seafood bursting with protein and passion, says Noor Hyder
Fleshy, smooth bodies encased in a sleek black shell – mussels are making their mark on Muscat’s culinary scene. And no wonder. They’re good for your health, being particularly rich in protein and minerals whilst low in fat and cholesterol.
They also come with a scorecard of healthy attributes. Hailed as the new super food, they have more iron and vitamin B12 than beef and the blue variety are also gluten free.
Besides their impressive nutritional profile, Mussels can also be trusted to bring full-bodied flavour and are a super satisfying culinary experience for seafood lovers.
Although they are not frequent guests in Muscat’s gastro scene, mussels will be the highlight of the ‘Mad for Mussels’ promotion at the InterContinental Muscat’s Al Ghazal Pub until April 6. Executive Chef Pascal Etienne is confident that the Sultanate’s ‘foodies’ will respond well to the promotion.
When I met up with him in the busy kitchens, it was clear that the Belgian understood exactly what people appreciate, and are willing to experiment with. He’s already introduced mussel soup at the hotel’s buffet dinner and was pleased to see that it went fast, encouraging him to introduce the seafood in a variety of other ways.
For those who want to try making mussels at home, Pascal has shared his classic recipe as a starting point. The only problem is, it can be hard to find mussels locally. The chef suggests checking Oman’s supermarkets like Al Fair for already cooked and frozen mussels in a vacuum pack, or asking a hotel to order fresh ones in for you. An easy way to tell if they are fresh is to use your nose – they should smell like the ocean, fresh and salty, says the expert.
Before you start cooking, always give the shellfish a quick rinse. Most store-bought mussels are pre-cleaned, so that’s all you need to do. To avoid a bad tummy (or worse) tap any open mussels. If they’re alive they’ll close. Fresh water should do the same. If they don’t stay shut, discard them.
And for those that prefer their seafood to be prepared by an established chef- make your way to the Al Ghazal Pub for a touch of Belgium.
Sauté the onions and celery with butter. Then add the thyme, bay leaf and lemon slice. Mix in the mussels and season. Cover and cook for five minutes, shaking the pan before cooking for two more minutes. Serve with french fries.