I had a lot of fun creating this recipe because I had never cooked with fresh coconut before but had always wanted to. I had no idea what to expect as far as the availability of fresh coconuts in St. Louis, so, fortunately, my local grocer sells whole coconuts which have been previously scored. After only a few firm taps with a hammer on the score lines, the shells broke open, and the room was filled with the wonderful aroma of fresh coconut. When I saw the gorgeous interior of the shells, I knew that was going to be the vessel for serving.
The flavors in this dish are classic Thai with an intricate blend of texture, color, strong aromatic components, delicate seafood, and a spicy edge at the finish.
1 pound fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1 pound prawns, cleaned and deveined
1 Thai chile pepper, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
1 stalk lemongrass, crushed and cut in thick diagonal slices
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup fresh coconut milk
1 cup chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons white miso
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons lime zest
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
Lime wedges for serving
Fresh coconut flakes
1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Using a spoon, scrape out about an inch of the flesh from the interior of the coconut shells and squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the coconut.
2) Place the coconut flakes on the baking sheet in a thin layer and place the baking sheet in the oven. Toast the coconut for 5 to 10 minutes until crisp. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set the coconut flakes aside.
3) Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.
4) Add the lemongrass, ginger, half of the cilantro, chiles, lime juice, sugar, miso, and oyster sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the coconut milk, then taste broth for salt and adjust as needed.
5) Bring the broth to a boil over high heat and add the mussels. Cover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan a few times. Add the prawns, cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes more until the prawns are pink and the mussels shells have opened. Discard any shells that do not open.
6) Transfer the mussels and the prawns to soup bowls and ladle the broth on top.
7) Garnish with cilantro, sliced chiles, scallions, toasted coconut, lime zest, and a squeeze of lime juice.