Mussels and Coconut Noodle Soup

This is one of those recipes which has an endless ingredients list. I usually don't like long lists myself and the way of tackling that problem is to divide the task into two, like preparing the paste the day before. That way I can still cook this meal without having to spend a whole Saturday in the kitchen and the preparation becomes so much easier. Your hard work will be worth it in the end, I can assure you. This is definitely a dinner party recipe and has never failed. The taste is very interesting yet subtle.

You will find shrimp paste and tamarind paste in most major supermarkets (or health food stores). You will also find shrimp paste in grocery stores that specialize in Asian food. If you can't find either, use 2 tablepoons apple juice/apple sauce instead of the tamarind paste and 1 additional tablespoon fish sauce. Note that you will need a food processor to prepare this recipe.

Not the easiest soup to make but very much worth the effort

This recipe is:

  • Egg free
  • Gluten free
  • Lactose (dairy) free

This recipe is easy to make:

  • Nut free

Mussels and Coconut Noodle Soup

Serves 4


For the soup

  • 50 grams (1¾ oz) peanuts (unsalted), toasted and chopped coarsely.
  • 500 grams (17½ oz) fresh mussels (or 300 grams (11 oz) tinned mussels weight includes brine)
  • 110 grams (3¾ oz) rice noodles (or any other you prefer)
  • 110 grams (3¾ oz) fresh bean sprouts
  • 100 grams (3½ oz) firm tofu (you can use shrimp instead if you prefer), cut into pieces and marinated in paste
  • 50 grams (1¾ oz) cucumber, sliced thinly (like matchsticks)
  • Handful fresh basil
  • A pinch of salt (Himalaya or sea salt)
  • Tamari sauce to taste
  • 400 millilitres (13½ fluid oz) coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (Nam Plah)
  • Lime juice from one lime

For the paste

  • 3 chilli peppers (red), chopped coarsely
  • 4 shallots, chop coarsely
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped coarsely
  • 2 stems lemon grass, chopped finely
  • Small piece fresh ginger (equal to a grape in size), chopped very finely
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste


For the paste

  1. Slice the 3 chillies in halves, scoop out the seeds and membranes, chop coarsely. You might want to wear plastic gloves if you have sensitive skin.
  2. Peel the garlic and the 4 shallots and chop coarsely.
  3. Trim the roots of the two lemon grass stems and the tough top away, leaving about 15 centimetres (6 inches) of stem, remove the outer skin and chop the lemon grass finely.
  4. Peel the ginger and chop coarsely.
  5. Place the chillies, 1 tablespoon water, 1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, garlic, shallots, lemon grass and ginger, in a food processor. Set paste aside.

For the soup

  1. First of all, you should toast the 50 grams peanuts. To do this, place the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius/400 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 6 for 5 minutes; it's important to use a timer since it is extremely easy to forget the nuts in the oven! Let them cool off completely and chop coarsely.
  2. Next, you need to prepare the 500 grams mussels (if using fresh mussels). Scrub the mussels under cold running water and remove any barnacles and pull off the little hairy 'beards'. Discard any mussels that are broken or don't close when given a sharp tap with a knife.
  3. Place the mussels into a saucepan with enough water to cover the mussels. Place the lid on and boil for 5 minutes or until the mussels open. If some of them did not open, discard them.
  4. Drain the mussels and remove them from their shells. Set aside.
  5. If you use tinned mussels instead (300 grams), open the tin, drain and set aside.
  6. If you are using tofu, marinate it with some of the prepared paste for 30 minutes or so.
  7. Slice the 50 grams cucumber in halves. Scoop out the seeds and slice the cucumber into thin slices (like matchsticks).
  8. Tear the basil leaves or chop coarsely. Set aside.
  9. Now, fill a medium saucepan with water and boil the 110 grams rice noodles according to instructions on the packet. Drain the noodles and place under running, cold water for 5 seconds. Drain and set aside.
  10. Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil to a very large (and deep) frying pan or sauce pan.
  11. Add the paste to the pan and heat gently, or until the paste becomes very fragrant (3-4 minutes).
  12. Add 400 millilitres coconut milk, the 2 tablespoons tamarind paste and 1 teaspoon fish sauce to the pan. Let simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  13. Add the three quarters of the bean sprouts and 1 tablespoon lime juice.
  14. Add tamarind sauce according to taste. Heat for 3 minutes. Add the drained noodles. Try to be careful not to stir too much as the noodles will break.
  15. Add the mussel shells. These should open up when they come into contact with heat and those that don't will need to be discarded.
  16. If using tofu or shrimp add at this stage and heat for a couple of minutes.
  17. Add half of the basil leaves to the saucepan.
  18. Ladle the soup base into serving bowls.
  19. Add the remaining basil leaves on top as well as the peanuts and the remaining bean sprouts.
  20. Serve very hot.


  • You can re-heat the soup for lunch or dinner the next day, just keep sealed in a container and keep in the fridge in the meantime. Take care to re-heat the soup sufficiently so that it is piping hot (and hot throughout). This is important to kill off any bacteria that might be present in the seafood.    
  • If the coconut oil is cold (in which case it becomes solid), place the jar in a bowl filled with hot water for a couple of minutes.   
  • You can use soy sauce instead of tamari sauce (note: includes wheat).
  • If you have leftover coconut milk, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray and use it later in soups and more.