Mussels in spicy garlic and tamarind sauce


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook: 300 Classic Recipes from the Great Regions of India

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook

By Mridula Baljekar

Published 2017

  • About

The vast coastline of southern India is one of the best sources of seafood in the country. The people of Kerala, at its southernmost tip, thrive on the daily local catch and use shellfish imaginatively in everyday family meals. Once prepared, mussels are extremely quick to cook. This dish, Kakkaerachi Oolarthu, can be served as a main course, or would make a fabulous appetizer for eight people.


  • 2 kg/lb mussels
  • 2.5 ml/½ tsp salt
  • 3.75 ml/¾ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 thick slices of lemon
  • 60 ml/4 tbsp sunflower oil or light olive oil
  • 2.5 ml/½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 3–4 dried red chillies
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed, or 5 ml/2 tsp garlic purée
  • 5 ml/1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
  • 10–12 curry leaves
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp tamarind juice
  • chopped fresh red chillies, to garnish


  1. Wash the mussels in several changes of water to make sure all the grit is removed. Pull off any beards and barnacles and wash them again.

  2. Tap any open mussels sharply with the back of the knife. If they won’t close, throw them away.

  3. Pour 600 ml/1 pint/ cups water into a large pan. Add the salt, turmeric and lemon slices and bring it to the boil.

  4. Transfer the mussels to the pan, cover and reduce the heat slightly.

  5. Cook for exactly 5 minutes, then strain the stock through a sieve set over a bowl.

  6. Remove the lemon slices and return the mussels to the pan, discarding any that have not opened. Cover the pan with the lid to keep the mussels warm.

  7. In a separate pan, heat the oil over a medium heat until it starts to smoke, and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start popping, add the chillies and allow them to blacken slightly.

  8. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 5–6 minutes, until the onions begin to brown.

  9. Add the strained stock, crushed black peppercorns and curry leaves to the onion mixture. Boil, uncovered, over a medium heat for 5–6 minutes.

  10. Divide the mussels between warmed soup bowls and ladle over some of the broth. Garnish with chopped red chillies and serve immediately.

Per portion Energy 551kcal/2310kJ; Protein 62g; Carbohydrate 23g, of which sugars 9g; Fat 24g, of which saturates 4g; Cholesterol 205mg; Calcium 22mg; Fibre 0.9g; Sodium 1699mg.