Mussels are farmed in the Gulf of Thailand and are a popular seafood here. Gulf of Thailand mussels are a beautiful turquoise green colour , and it's common to buy them sun-dried rather than fresh. As fresh, they die quickly in the heat and decay, but as dried they can be kept for a long time without special storage. Below I'll explain how to clean them, store them, open them ready for sun-drying.
I got these fresh from the sea, and so they needed quite a bit of work. But perhaps you'll get your mussels from a supermarket and you can skip the cleaning part.
1. Rinse the mussels in sea-water before you take them, its a lot easier if you don't start with a lot of mud on them.
2. They're attached to the pile by their beards, strands of hair like fibres that anchor the mussel in place. These need to be removed, it's better to pull as much out as possible, then cut as much of the beard off as you can, and scrape off any remnant. There may be more beard inside, if that's the case you'll have to remove it when they are opened.
3. Scrape off barnacles using a flat knife. Slide the knife under the barnacle and it will detach. Get the outer shell as clean as you can by rinsing it and scraping off debris.
4. Any mussels that won't close on their own, are probably dead, better to discard them.
5. Next to clean their stomachs! Make a bucket of salty clean water, place the mussels in the water, they will suck this through their systems and clean out any debris. I leave them for an hour like this. They will use up the air in the water if you leave them in water too long and die. So don't leave them too long in one batch of water.
6. If you're not confident they're clean, rinse and place them in another bucket of salty clean water for another hour until you're happy they're clean.
Mussels are normally alive when you buy them, they don't keep well once they're dead, quickly decaying and becoming inedible. If you're going to eat them within a day or two then store them in a fridge with a small amount of water, covered over. Do not immerse them in water, just a little in the bottom of the bowl to keep the moisture there.
If you're going to keep them longer, either steam them in their shells, remove and freeze them, or do it the way Thai fishermen do, sun-dry them.
Sun Dried Mussels
Take your cleaned mussels, and open them. The best type of knife to use is flat bladed, strong, and not sharp. An oyster knife is perfect, but I use a regular kitchen knife.
1. Run the flat of the blade along the straight edge of the mussel. You do not need to use the point of the knife, as you'll only end up stabbing your hand. Instead, look for a slight gap in the shell, put the edge of the knife into the gap and giggle it, with a twisting motion, to get the knife in deeper.
2. If you can't do that along the straight edge, start on the curved edge instead, once you're in the shell run the knife around to the straight edge, keeping the edge of the knife inside the shell.
3. With a cutting motion, slice half way into the mussel, it will release the shell and die.
4. Prise open the shell with your fingers. By opening it on the straight side, the beard is now facing you. If you opened it on the curved side, the beard would now be away from you and you'd have to remove it after you remove it from the shell.
5. You can see what remains of the beard sticking up, pull it off.
6. Scrape the meat of the mussel out of the shell trying to keep it in one piece.
7. I like to use one of the shell halves as a tool to scrape out the mussel. It is the perfect shape size and thickness for this.
8. Lay out the mussels on a drying mat, or if you don't have one, a plastic colander will do.
9. In Thailand a days full sun will dry these out, if you don't have strong sun, dry them for two days. They must be completely dried out to store, almost like crisps. If you don't have strong sun, you cannot make sundried mussels, they will decay too much before drying out.
10. Sundried mussels will keep for months, and should be kept in a dry place, or stored in a plastic bag. They don't need to be refrigerated.