I would love to say I grew up eating shellfish, so that way i would have a lot more street credit when it comes to developing recipes like this one, but that would be a big fat lie.
In fact, I hated it. Without ever even trying.
But first off: my brother was HIGHLY allergic to shellfish (like, epipen allergy) so we never had fish in the house. He was also allergic to grass, trees, fresh air, leftovers, room temperature water, shiny objects, the color pink, etc but for whatever reason we made exceptions for all of those things.
Basically any sea animal was banned from our home (and what is hilarious, is that seven years of my childhood was spent living in Japan and the only fish I ate was from a can). It wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties that I began eating food from the ocean, and I think I did it more so because that was what adults did. They tried new things and ate sushi with chopsticks. So i did just that, and was hooked.
Anywho, I absolutely LOVE Asian/Indonesian/Middle Eastern etc etc etc inspired flavoring/spices and so that is where the birth of this dish came from. In fact, I think a majority of my dishes on this site have some sort of influence from the above regions. I mean. Of course the Italian in me will always make a debut here and there, but hot damn. Rich spices, decadent broths/sauces, salt salt salt salt salt, it is what keeps the blood pumping and the arteries plugged. And of course, my father. Sunday dinners were devoted to Italian, but every other day of the week was some sort of country mashup in spices and flavoring and so I have him to thank for this one.
Black Garlic – you can find this available at most grocery stores. Either in the International aisle OR in the produce section near the garlic. It is sold in a sealed plastic bag. It is just fermented garlic.
Clean yo mussels. Seriously. Don’t skip this step. You’ll be eating gross sea tasting broth with a combination of sand otherwise. And never cook with an already open/broken mussel. It will get you rull sick. And that’s seriously no fun. Take this from someone who has experienced the extreme casualities of food poisoning via shellfish, on not one, but at least three separate occasions in my adult life, grateful i’m still here. Also: All three incidents have occurred when dining out. And ordering crab. And i’m not allergic to it. I promise. Also. Purchase the shellfish at a reputable store (speciality seafood store is my numero uno rec. After that Whole Foods has always been promising). And if you are in the middle of nowhere, landlocked, and there is a small bodega that specializes in fresh killed deer meat, but somehow is also selling shellfish, maybe go for Bambi instead.
*tips on cleaning mussels: let them soak in cold water for 20 minutes. As they breathe they will inhale the fresh water and exhale the sand. It’s incredibly fascinating and you should absolutely do this. Or else you’ll be grinding your teeth on small rocks. Ga-ross.