Street Food – Turkish Stuffed Mussels
While art and history usually drives most of my travel choices, I do like to eat well while I’m on vacation. The flavors become so linked to my memories that one good bowl of tzatziki sends me to the beach in the Southern Peloponnese or a perfectly crispy wienerschnitzel reminds me of the sunny little garden cafe filled with Viennese office workers out to lunch. I dream of recreating these things. I do my best to attempt them over the first month I’m home and then on other random weekends when I get a craving for proper Guinness stew.
I must say, Turkey set the food bar very high. You would not believe the amazing quality of food we found at even the smallest gas station snack shop! Meze, grilled meats – they were all amazing. One “dish” I loved but have been the most apprehensive about try to cook myself is Midye Dolmasi – a sublimely delicious and simple stuffed mussel sold as street food. Anthony Bourdain makes a big deal about them in his Istanbul No Reservations episode (above) and I learned after trying the wilted greens from his Greece episode that one should best follow his advice. (For the record, I didn’t actually get to stuffed mussels until Canakkale.)
I couldn’t find one definitive Stuffed Mussel recipe so I decided to wing it having make Stuffed Peppers with essentially the same filling. I left out the pine nuts, used tomato paste when I should have used diced tomatoes (next time I’ll get it right…) and spiced with mint and nutmeg. It took a while to get all the mussels open and stuffed but then again I did make 4 dozen! I actually had a lot more luck cutting the mussel hinge open to stuff them for what that’s worth. By all means find some way to stack and weigh down the mussels so they stay closed during steaming; it makes a huge difference!
But there you have it – a full plate of delicious stuffed New England/Turkish mussels! Well worth the hour(s?) it took to make them!