Curry, from the word kari, meaning “sauce” in India, refers to spicy stews or the spices used to make them. Indian cooks generally mix their own curry powder, but we take the easy way and used a store-bought version, which works well. As the star ingredient in Coconut Curry Mussels, coconut milk is combined with garlic, ginger and onion, some of the seasonings used in Indian cooking.
“It’s a dish with a wide variety of ingredients,” writes Indian cooking expert Julie Sahni.
Before the food industry caught on to the idea that there was a market for ingredients with less salt and less fat, anyone who wanted to cook with reduced amounts of either salt or fat was out of luck. There was no such thing as low-sodium soy sauce or reduced-fat mayonnaise, and the idea of light coconut milk was out of the question. But if you wanted to make an authentic Indian Yerra Moolee of shrimp poached in coconut milk or Thai Chicken Soup, there was no getting around it: you needed coconut milk. Besides the distinctive sweetness it adds to dishes, “Coconut milk enriches all other flavorings,” writes Sahni. However, at about 600 calories and almost 60 grams of fat per cup, coconut milk is a nutritional splurge that many cooks would rather do without. Happily, light coconut milk, made from a second or third pressing of coconut meat and with considerably fewer calories and less fat, makes a good substitute. Coconut cream, from the first pressing, is so high in fat it’s sometimes used for frying.
—By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.