You know those “beards” that you remove when cleaning mussels? Apparently, they’re called byssal (or byssus) threads. Byssal threads are groups of strong filaments that mussels and other bivalves secrete to attach themselves to hard surfaces. These silk-like threads are so strong that they can even attach themselves to slippery surfaces like Teflon.
Apart from being used to sustain a mussel’s life by keeping it firmly in place, these byssal threads can also be used to exact revenge.
The dog whelk is a prime example. One of the mussel’s main predators, it bores a hole through the mussel’s shell to suck out its soft parts. Incapable of escaping or defending itself, the mussel dies.
But sometimes, it has just enough time to attach a byssal thread onto the dog whelk’s shell to trap it. Unable to free itself, the whelk slowly starves to death in an ironic, poetic twist of fate.
Forever affixed to the dead mussel’s immovable shell, I guess you can say that the dog whelk gives new meaning to the phrase, “can’t move a mussel.” 😉
I never knew that mussels and beans would go so well together, especially when you’re sopping it all up with crusty bread. 🙂
*Actual size. 😆
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 small white onion or 1 large, sliced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small Spanish-style chorizo, sliced diagonally
- 2 cups shrimp stock or clam juice
- 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes or homemade tomato sauce
- 1 cup cooked white beans
- 1 pound or 1/2 kilo mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- Chives or green onions, chopped, for garnish
- In large pot over medium heat, add olive oil and onions, then cook for 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and chorizo, then sprinkle over with smoked paprika and cook until heated through.
- Add stock, crushed tomatoes, beans, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper, then cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add mussels, then cover and cook for 5-8 minutes or until mussels have opened. Discard unopened mussels.
- Remove from heat and transfer to individual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped chives or green onions and serve with crusty bread.
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