A plate of mussels on a bright blue tabletop, with salt and broth served on the side
Photography, Chris Middleton

Steamed Mussels With Beer and Thai Basil

Chef Jerry Mai describes this dish as "an absolute must while sitting on small plastic furniture in Vietnam."

Chef and restauranteur Jerry Mai is often credited with helping popularize Vietnamese flavours in Melbourne, Australia, where she now lives and works. This recipe, from her recent cookbook Vietnam: Morning to Midnight is “simple and effective, with beautiful flavours coming from the Thai basil and lemongrass alongside the sweetness of the mussels,” she writes. Lager-style beer makes the base for the broth – if you want to keep the flavour as authentic as possible, you can look for Bia Hanoi in specialty markets, but other lager-style brews will work just as well. Serve it up with a quick cumquat chili salt and transport yourself to Vietnam.

A plate of mussels on a bright blue tabletop, with salt and broth served on the side

Steamed Mussels With Beer and Thai Basil

Jerry Mai's recipe for steamed mussels in a spicy lager, lemongrass and Thai basil broth, served with cumquat chili salt.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Vietnamese
Servings 4


  • 1 330 ml can lager-style beer Bia Hanoi, if available
  • 4 sprigs Thai basil stalks and leaves separated
  • 1 1¾ in piece of ginger crushed
  • 1 long red chili sliced
  • 1 lemongrass stalk white part only, lightly crushed and cut into 4 in lengths
  • 2 lbs + 3 oz (1 kg) mussels scrubbed and debearded
  • 4 banh mi rolls optional

Cumquat Chilli Salt

  • 1 bird’s eye chili
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 4 cumquats halved


  • To make the cumquat chili salt, pound the chili to a paste using a mortar and pestle. Add the salt and lightly pound until well combined. Divide the chilli salt among four small dipping bowls and top with two cumquat halves.
  • Place the beer, Thai basil stalks, ginger, chili and lemongrass in a saucepan large enough to comfortably hold the mussels. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the mussels, then cover and cook, shaking the pan often, for about 5 minutes or until the shells have opened. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a large serving plate and pour the broth into a serving bowl. Scatter the reserved Thai basil leaves over the mussels and broth.
  • To eat, invite everyone to juice the cumquats into their chili salt. Dip the mussels in the broth, followed by the chili salt, and enjoy with banh mi, if you like.

A pink and purple book cover with an illustration of a crab, moon and stars in a light tan frame.

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