I’ll admit that even I wouldn’t expect to have not only a memorable meal, but also a strike of inspirational lightning from a theme park resort restaurant, but it just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
We were in Orlando a few years back and while I waited for my better half to wrap up at a work conference I found myself searching for a lone lunch. Not wanting to stray too far from the area, I wandered into a restaurant inside one of the resort hotels. I figured I’d plop down and order some typical family-oriented casual lunch and the lackluster prospects of frozen chicken fingers and lettuce being dubbed a salad were, frankly, fine by me—I was tired, bored and hungry so searching for the inventive sounded daunting. What I saw on the menu piqued my interest immediately. A simple lunch dish of mussels in an Asiany broth. “Why not?” I though; living with someone who doesn’t “do” mussels or clams makes them a treat for me any way I can get them. They were out of this world. The taste and concept stuck with me.
Since coming back from that trip I have made these just about any time that I’ve found myself at home, alone for lunch. That said, though, they are also perfect for a quiet lunch with a good friend that also enjoys these tender and briny little mollusks. What’s best about this recipe, aside from the flavor of course, is that to prepare and make it takes almost less than time than it does to enjoy it. A rough—and I mean rough—chop, pulse or bashing of a few flavorsome aromatics is done, before they’re tipped into a pan and simmered in coconut milk for a broth that is truly transcendent. It’s light and refreshing, while being creamy and comforting still. The aromatics in question—garlic, ginger, chilies and lemongrass—lend flavor that I can only describe as nuanced; strong enough to feel their essence, but subtle, as not to overpower the mussels.
I top the dish, as it was in the restaurant, with a punchy tomato “salad”, made simply with tomatoes, cilantro, minced chilies and lime juice. It provides a bit of sassy Yang to the smooth broth’s Yin. The whole experience of cooking and eating this is calming, punctured with shards of excitement—a true testament to the cuisine from which it takes inspiration.
A cool, crisp glass of wine, and a grilled chunk of crusty bread (there’s still broth that needs sopping after all) is all you need with this for a lunch to remember. A little gossip with a good friend is a good idea too, to fill the gaps between eating while you pick the shells of their soft offerings.
Don’t forget… I’m on BLOGLOVIN’!