Recipes Main Courses Seafood Mussels with Garlic and Basil (Hoi Ma Laeng Poo)
Mussels with Garlic and Basil (Hoi Ma Laeng Poo)

Mussels with Garlic and Basil (Hoi Ma Laeng Poo)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 6 Serves 4 to 6.
When you visit one of Bangkoks enormous seafood garden restaurants, be careful you are not bumped by one of the waiters whizzing by on roller skates. The skates give them a fast start out of the kitchen as they deliver hot dishes to the tables. Among the offerings are aromatic mussels loaded with the scent of toasted garlic laced with chilies and anise-flavored Thai basil.


  • 1/2 tsp. peppercorns
  • 2 red jalapeño or serrano chilies, seeded and
      coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, quartered
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro roots or stems
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce, or as needed
  • 2 lb. mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish


In a mortar, using a pestle, pound the peppercorns until crushed, then add the chilies, garlic and cilantro roots, and pound or grind until a rough paste forms.

Heat a wok or fry pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is hot, add the chili paste and fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the oyster sauce and the 1 Tbs. fish sauce. Add the mussels, discarding any that fail to close to the touch, and stir and toss with the sauce to mix. Add the stock and sugar, then cover and cook until the mussels open, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with fish sauce.

Toss in the basil leaves and cook until they just begin to wilt. Transfer the mussels to a platter, discarding any that failed to open, and garnish with the cilantro leaves.
Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Southeast Asia, by Joyce Jue (Time-Life Books, 2000).