SERVES: Makes approx. 24 popcorn mussel bites
For the mayo
1 teaspoon miso paste
1 cup of mayonnaise
Sriracha hot sauce to taste
For the popcorn mussels
12 x NZ Greenshell mussels
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup of tempura batter mix
Approx. ¾ cup of ice-cold water
3 litres oil for deep frying
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Flakey sea salt
Put the oil into a deep fryer or large pot with a heavy bottom and let it come up to temperature on a medium/high heat.
Prepare the mayo next, so it’s ready to serve with the mussels when they are cooked and hot. In a bowl add the miso, and with the back of a spoon, smooth it out a little so that it is easier to incorporate with the mayo. Add the mayo and mix well, then add in the sriracha and lime juice to taste. You shouldn’t need to add salt, as the miso already has that salty-umami flavour. Set aside in the fridge while you prepare the mussels.
In a large pot, which has a tight-fitting lid, add the butter and let it melt completely over medium/high heat. Add the onions and sauté for a minute or so, until becoming slightly translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute longer. Next place the mussels in the pot, and pour over the stock. Place the lid on the pot and turn up the heat up. Steam until the mussels have just opened, about 3 minutes, taking them out of the pot and setting aside to cool as they open.
NOTE: Cooking the mussels in this stock mixture, gives a little extra flavour but you can also just steam them lightly in water until they open if you prefer.
To make the tempura, add the tempura batter mix to a bowl and whisk in the ice-cold water – you may need to add less or even a little more water depending on the brand, but you want a batter that is just thick enough to coat the mussel but light enough to still be crisp. When mixing, be careful not to overmix the batter or it won’t be light and fluffy. Set aside in the fridge, so it stays cold while you finish the mussels.
Take the lightly steamed mussels out of the shells and remove any mussel beards. Cut each mussel in half (or in quarter if you prefer smaller pieces). Add mussel pieces to the tempura batter bowl.
Check to see if the oil is ready, it needs to be 190°C (375°F) for frying. You can test this with a candy thermometer if you have one, or you can also test it by dipping the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil. If the oil starts bubbling around the handle steadily (not too vigorously or too slowly) it’s ready.
Carefully place mussels in the oil and fry until light and crisp. Tempura is lighter in colour than other batters, so be sure not to overcook. Once cooked, drain on paper towels, sprinkle over sesame seeds and flakey sea salt. Serve with the mayo on the side.
You could also serve these mussels in a bao bun – simply cook the bao according to packet instructions then add some salad or slaw to the buns, some sliced cucumber, the mayo and fill with the popcorn mussels.