Thai Green Curry Coconut Mussels [Cooking Demo]

Blogging Community, Food Adventures, Los Angeles, Main Dishes, Recipes

So yesterday I was invited to do a cooking demonstration on the main stage at the 626 Night Market and I am excited to announce that it was a great success! I was nervous as this was my first demo experience (I soon learned that it was a first for 626 Night Market as well!), and I would be following a cooking-on-camera veteran Marina Chung of The Taste. I knew I would only have a 30-minute time slot, but I was feeling ambitious and really wanted to show off a dish that could be done from start to finish. I racked my brain for ideas when it hit me — steamed mussels.

Thai Green Curry Coconut Steamed Mussels

Thai Green Curry Coconut Steamed Mussels

We have done moules marinieres at home many times, even making a 5-pound batch for a party with our dear friends Brian and Patricia, both of whom play major roles on the 626 Night Market planning team and were influential in getting me this gig. This time, though, I wanted to do a special twist with a Thai green curry based broth; the first time I ate a similar dish, it was a red curry broth at Waterloo & City and the flavor combination really stuck with me. It also perfectly fit our blog’s mission of finding easy ways to replicate gourmet food at home. I knew I would be able to execute the dish in the amount of time given and most importantly, I was confident that it looked and tasted good enough that my audience would (hopefully) be inspired to make it at home too!

They even made this cool graphic for marketing my demo segment!

They even made this cool graphic for marketing my demo segment!

I am so happy to share the recipe with our readers. Unfortunately I do not have step-by-step photos, but somewhere out there exists film footage of my demo. When I have access to it, I’ll update this post with a link so you can watch the clip at home and follow along. Scroll down to read the recipe or click here to download the PDF file that was handed out at the event. I also thought I’d share what I learned about doing cooking demonstrations – they are super fun but I feel they also require a good amount of planning and organization in order to be done well.

The Set-up (I practiced once at home first)

The Set-up (I practiced once at home first)

ingredients:

2 pounds live mussels, cleaned and carefully stored

2 stalks fresh lemongrass

1-inch piece of galangal, sliced (optional)

2-3 kaffir lime leaves

1.5 tablespoons thai green curry paste

14 fluid ounces coconut milk OR 7 fluid ounces coconut cream plus 1/2 cup of water or chicken broth

1 tablespoon fish sauce

3 tablespoons thai basil, cut into ribbons (chiffonade)

1 fresno chili, sliced OR 1 thai chili, crushed (optional)

loaf of crusty bread for serving (french baguette works well)

 

directions:

clean the mussels, scrubbing off debris and removing the beards. discard any that are chipped, cracked, or remain open despite gentle tapping (it’s called a percussion test!).

dice only the lower, golden-colored portion of the lemongrass stalk. discard the green stems or save for later use (they’re great for soups!).

in a hot skillet, briefly sauté the lemongrass, galangal, and curry paste until aromatic. add the coconut milk (or coconut cream + water) and kaffir lime leaves and bring to a simmer.

turn the heat to high and add the mussels, double-checking to discard any that may be unsafe to consume. cover with a tight-fitting lid and let the mussels steam. within five to seven minutes, all of the mussels should have opened.

with a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a serving bowl.

add two tablespoons of thai basil to the broth along with the chili, if using. taste and adjust for saltiness by adding fish sauce (you may not need the full tablespoon, depending on the brininess of the mussels). if the broth is too watery, reduce the liquid by simmering for a few more minutes.

ladle over the mussels and sprinkle with the remaining thai basil for garnish. serve with a loaf of crusty bread for soaking up the broth.

bon appetit!

Voila!

Voila!

I learned so much about doing a cooking demo, both in researching before the event and from the feedback I received after the event. Here are a few tips that I hope will come in handy if you ever have the opportunity to show off your cooking prowess and love for food:

1. Research your ingredients: I looked up every single item on my ingredients list to see if there were any fun facts I could provide the audience. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about and to anticipate potential questions, so I researched topics like possible recipe substitutions (galangal vs. ginger, coconut milk vs. coconut cream), health benefits of any ingredients, proper handling and techniques, the best ways to describe certain methods (like de-bearding mussels). I was told later that the audience found it helpful that I took the time to describe each item and make “exotic” ingredients seem less daunting.

2. Plan your time: I did a run-through of preparing the recipe from start to finish in my own home first, especially since I would be using a portable burner and wanted to ensure the equipment would cooperate. This also gave me the opportunity to adjust my game plan so that I would fill in any “blank” time between waiting for things to heat or cook. For example, the instructions above mention cleaning the mussels first before starting the broth, but since I knew I would have to wait for the cream to come to a simmer, I started that first and used the wait time to talk about the mussels. I also had to make sure I added in some time for mishaps or answering questions and, in my case, subtract some time in case I speak too quickly (as often happens when I give presentations… it’s the nerves!).

3. Speak with personality: Speaking of speaking, before my demo I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching videos of live cooking demos. I ran the gamut from my favorite cooking personalities (Martin Yan still has GREAT showmanship long after his Yan Can Cook days!) to small-town county fairs, and I tried to glean some do’s and don’ts based on my preferences. The main thing I noticed is that cooking and talking simultaneously is not as easy as it looks! Also, I enjoyed most when the presenter sounded like they were talking to a crowd of peers. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to imagine the friends (but more on that below).

4. Make checklists: I was working with the bare minimum for my demo — tables, a 6-outlet surge protector with extension cord, and a headset/microphone. That’s it. I had to check and double-check my lists as I was packing my non-perishables: cutting board, towels, water, portable burner, skillet & lid, knives, spoons, prep bowls, decorative props… then I had to make sure my list for last-minute ingredients was up to snuff as well! I’m the type to get that odd feeling that I forgot to pack something so lists galore work best for me.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: When the guys in the kitchen spot me (or anyone really) carrying something too heavy or bulky to be comfortable, they always say “Don’t be a hero!” I had to ask for some help getting my supplies to and from the stage, and that is A-OK. Also, I did not end up doing this because of the nature of the venue and stage setup, but you can invite audience members to come up and assist with the prep! It helps get them more engaged in the process, especially if you are able to provide samples at the end.

Family Photo

Family Photo

And last but certainly not least, I wanted to say thank you to 626 Night Market and to all of my friends and family who came out to support me in doing my first cooking demo! I wish I had been able to take a photo from where I was standing up on stage, but when I looked down to the audience, I saw so many familiar faces sitting in the crowd and it made my heart melt. I already knew some people would be there; my best friend Calvin and his girlfriend Pollyanna were visiting from out of town and we had caravaned to the event together, our friends Lilia and Wilson had just met up with us at Popping Fish Balls, and Brian even sneaked away from his event duties to watch. Of course, my dear Martin was grinning from ear to ear to finally see the results after enduring my recipe tweaking, the hot hot heat, the traffic, and my constant asking of “what if this happens?” “what if I forget something?” “what if I curse in front of all those people?”. I am so thankful for his endless support, acting as my guinea pig, offering suggestions, carrying my equipment, patiently waiting as I got checked in and set up with the sound people, and just quelling my anxiety in general. AND as you can see in the photo above, my parents came out to the event as well! I was so excited since many of the ingredients were grown in their own backyard, and it meant so much for them to see me in my natural element. And then I saw even more friends had come out to surprise me — Grace and Andrew, Curtis, Edmund, Vicky and Will… before I knew it, I had my very own entourage there to cheer me on, laugh at my lame jokes, ask questions during Q&A when there was awkward silence (“Why IS a dead mussel a bad mussel?”), and sample my dish at the end. I felt so loved.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things, and you can bet that a first-time cooking demo is the perfect entry! Though I am not new to cooking mussels, it was my first time cooking in front of a large audience. Large being defined as more people than would fit in my living room while I cook in the comfort of my own kitchen. ;)

This month is hosted by Lindsey at Sneaks and Sweets.

Cheers!

Eat Real Fest LA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

(Many apologies for the delay in this post, but this event was great and we wanted to share our experience, belated as it may be. Please enjoy!)

This summer, an annual gathering to support sustainable and local products and produce, Eat Real Fest, hailing from Oakland, took over the parking lot at Helms Bakery and transformed it into a fun food festival to rival Carmageddon. The furniture stores became venues for discussion panels and forums, and the lines of the parking lot became rows of food trucks, displays, even a little resting area for fluffy goslings. We woke up on that Saturday and took the 33 over to Helms, a convenient (and free!) way to get to the food fest. I was excited to try the many food trucks that were slated to be setting up shop, and the variety of DIY panels and cooking demos sounded fantastic! We were planning to make a whole day of it so we could also catch the Lit Fest discussion, very appropriate for getting our launch ideas!

Helms Bakery

For lunch, we browsed the maze of food trucks and settled on sliders at Me So Hungry. We shared the Cali sliders at the recommendation of the guy who took our order. It was reminiscent of a mini Father’s Office burger, with applewood bacon, caramelized onions, arugula, and gorgonzola. It was good, but I was still pretty hungry afterward.

Me So Hungry Cali slider

Off we went to the Whole Foods truck (my first thought being “What?? Whole Foods has a truck?!”) to buy a refreshing glass of watermelon juice. It was literally a liquified watermelon with a beautiful brilliant red color and delicious crisp flavor.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

It was a pretty warm day, so we wandered into the indoors expo area, browsing the wares of many local jam makers, bakeries, and even Jamaican marinade brands. We saw these adorable grow-your-own-mushroom kits from Back to the Roots and I had to buy a pair (one for us and one for my mom. Ours have not been sprouting, but my mom picture-texts me with her progress. Too cute!).

BTTR Mushroom Kits – also available at Whole Foods!

We watched dozens of people scrambling for a spot to make their own sauerkraut (not our cup of tea) and eventually found a pasta-making demo from Chef May Parich of The New School of Cooking. This definitely caught my eye as we’ve been experimenting with homemade pastas ever since Martin bought me a Marcato for Valentine’s Day and made me dinner with it. :) She had a Kitchenaide with the pasta making attachment, but she still mixed the dough by hand using the “well” method. We learned a few neat tricks from her, the most important being the use of semolina. It truly makes a difference using a combination of semolina and all purpose flour, rather than AP alone. The chewy texture, the beautiful yellow color, all thanks to semolina! The other helpful hint was to roll out sheets of the pasta and let them sit in a baking sheet, with layers of saran wrap in between to keep them from sticking, so that you can cut the sheets all at once. We applied some of her techniques to our basic pasta, but we’re looking forward to trying Chef May’s ideas for spinach pasta, agnolotti, and much more!

Chef May’s Demo

After the cooking demo, we moseyed on over to Room & Board, who lent their furniture displays for the Lit Fest panel, hosted by Gustavo Arellano of OC Weekly and featuring four different “kinds” of food writers:
Russ Parsons, food editor of the Los Angeles Times
Amy Scattergood, editor of Squid Ink, LA Weekly‘s food blog (if I remember correctly, another representative of Squid Ink was actually present.)
Eddie Lin, author of the infamous Deep End Dining
Hazel Quimpo, community manager of Yelp Orange County

(from the Eat Real Fest website)

The Lovely Panel

It was very interesting to learn about the perception, from both a reader’s and a writer’s standpoint, of these different types of food writing. Which is taken more “seriously” and which is more “easy to relate to”. What makes good food writing. How important is it to have good photos. What was most helpful was being able to speak one-on-one with Eddie Lin after the panel to get ideas for our blog launch. He was very gracious but honest with his advice, and we definitely appreciated that.

Our stomachs were grumbling for dinner by then, so off we went to the “alley” of food trucks. I had been wanting to try Big Mista since we first saw the man pulling out a drawer full of chicken wings and lovingly turn and baste them.

So many chicken wings!!

And so we stood in line. It was almost 40 minutes before we reached the front of the chicken wing line, during which Martin had slid over to the other line to get us some pulled pork sliders. These were delicious; the meat was barbecue-y and flavorful and served on a sweet Hawaiian roll with crispy, cider vinegary slaw.

Pulled pork slider on sweet Hawaiian rolls

It reinvigorated me for the long wait, but what really hit the spot was snagging one of the last orders of pig candy. The look in Martin’s eyes told me he loved me just a little bit more for having introduced him to this sinfully thick slice of bacon glazed with brown sugar to a caramelized crunch. What a deliciously un-Kosher delight! (Big Bang Theory reference, anyone?)

Sinfully good pig candy

Soon enough, the fresh-from-the-grill chicken wings were ready. And man, were they worth the wait! Where does one even find such HUGE chicken wings? They were the size of most chickens’ thighs! The barbecue glaze was sweet and sticky with a little kick to it, and the skin had crisped up nicely. The meat was so juicy, and the wings overall were just fingerlickin’ good.

Long awaited chicken wings

We devoured them in much less time than it had taken to get them, but no matter — immediately in front of us was the Flying Knives butchery contest. Two teams, each with a 1/4 steer to break down into quality cuts of beef. It was definitely a sight to see! We had a mad craving for steak after watching the frenzied sawing and slicing.

Team Lindy & Grundy

Team Whole Foods

We were tempted to get a shave ice before we left, but the sun was setting and it was getting chilly fairly quickly. Off we wandered toward the bus stop, looking behind us at the fun and informative festival that had popped up seemingly out of nowhere, as if it were all a dream.

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Check out Eat Real Fest: http://eatrealfest.com/

Eat Real Fest LA was July 16-17, 2011 at the Helms Bakery District.

Eat Real Fest Oakland was September 23-25. Check back for Eat Real 2012!

Follow them on Twitter @eatrealfest