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How to clean Mussels?

Mussels are most commonly available in the land of Gods own country, Kerala.Few days back while I was having a  talk with my Papa,he had mentioned that whenever he visits his native which is in Kerala, he see’s Mussels in abundance.Most of the times whenever we visited Kerala by road we have parceled it many times that is with my husband.We also ask our driver who is also a Keralite, to get it when he visits his hometown.Problem is my Papa is a pure vegetarian and his  little princess,me, is a pure sea food lover.So,my loving Papa, for his lil Princess, me,lol,brought 4 Kg’s of Mussels in a Barrel and my joy knew no bounds when he brought it.He had brought it few times, long time back when we he had been to Calicut to visit my late Aunt.We do get it in Mangalore,but since it is in popular demand , restaurant people or some Mussel lovers like me buy it in a jiffy and leave nothing for me,lol.
                 Mussels is known as Neeli as in Konkani,Pachile as in thulu and sorry don’t know what they say in other languages.The reason to post this post is I’m sure I will  be questioned about the cleaning procedure of Mussels as and when I post the yummy dishes on Neeli.
                    This batch of  Mussels were medium sized which was perfect for frying and to make pickle.But it had  little sand and I had  to wash the flesh several times.Big sized mussels will be little chewy,so I prefer medium ones mostly.
               Mussels has a strong connection with me of Kerala.Whenever we used to visit our aunt in Calicut,my late aunt Veenakka used to cook her Keralite Mussels  delicacies and she used to make it a point to get it….There are two methods of cleaning the mussels,in which one method was taught to me by my aunt.All we need is a little practice on her method.
          Let me tell teach you’ll the first method which is very simple and easy .




Method 1 :
  1. Soak the mussels in tap water for half an hour,wash the Mussels thoroughly in the water,discard  the dirt, beard like thing known as byssus or byssal thread,which is a bundle of brownish fibre which emerges from the shell,which is commonly found in most of the mussels, change the water atleast 5-6 times.
  2. You may also pull the byssus thread with a quick tug.
  3. You may use a knife,firm brush or a scissor  to brush off sand,barnacles,or any oceanic attachments from the mussels.
  4. Transfer it to a broad vessel,without adding water and keep it on high flame,closing the lid.
  5. Once it starts steaming,simmer it,partly open the lid and keep it on low flame until the shell gets opened,here we use the term as “opens its mouth”.
  6. It will take around 10-15 minutes to open depending upon the quantity and size of mussels.
  7. Once the shell gets opened, off the flame,most of the  times,mussels releases water which we reserve the stock for the preparation of curry.
  8. We store the upper stock and discard the lower stock as it contains sand particles at times.
  9. Very rarely the mussels doesn’t release water,in that case add little water when you keep it to steam after a while.
  10. Now separate the flesh from the shell and discard the shell.(We don’t use the shell,you may use it for presentation etc)
  11. If you feel there is sand in the flesh,please don’t forget to wash it before use.
  12. If you wash the flesh it loses its original flavour and aroma,but there is no option if there is sand.
  13. Once you separate the flesh from the shell,clean the dirt inside the flesh which is blackish in colour and the remaining byssus.
  14. Refrigerate the flesh in an airtight container and use it as and when you want.
  15. I strain and  store the stock in a separate container for further use.

Method 2:
This method is the original method of cleaning the mussels.This method makes the dish very tasty.Below I have provided small piece of information on Indian style cutting equipment “Addoli”.This method is known as “Karlache” in Konkani.




  1. Wash the mussels as explained in Step one.
  2. Then you need a knife or an Indian sitting style cutting equipment known as “Addoli”.
  3. “Addoli” may be known as Indian style sitting stationary knife where the object has to be spliced, is moved producing a cut.
  4. “Addoli”  is most commonly used in South Indian homes to cut or chop  vegetables,fruits and fish.
  5. For more information on “Addoli” refer here.
  6. I use the Addoli which  makes  my work easy,but knife also works well.
  7. Once you get the grip to open the shell,then its easy.
  8. Hold the mussels with both your hands and try to open the shell open.
  9. Keep a bowl or a plate below where you open the mussels.
  10. With the help of a spoon or a shell scoop the flesh slowly from the shell into the bowl.
  11. Use it making the curry or fry.


My notes:
When you add the mussels in the water and if any mussel floats on the top of the water,it means it is spoilt,so discard it.
First method of cleaning is followed for clams too,however second is also followed by few.
Cleaning of the mussels is done one mussel at a time individually.




About SaiGeetha Pai

I am Saigeetha, a homemaker, food blogger, baker and a cook. Cooking is my passion.

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