When walking down İstiklal Caddesi, Istanbul’s famous shopping street, there is simply no escape from this popular Turkish street food. Along the three kilometer long pedestrian zone, street vendours can be found every couple of meters selling Midye Dolma – fresh, rice-stuffed mussels. Midye Dolma are not only popular in Istanbul, however. Especially along Turkey’s coasts, you’ll see street sellers wandering up and down with baskets full of the shiny black shells and lemons.
Midye Dolma is a must-try for sea food lovers but once you stop you are basically trapped as the street vendors open one mussel after another. Before you can eat the street snack, the sellers will break off the top shell for you and squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the mussel and rice. You can then use the loose shell as a scoop to spoon the delicious mix straight into your mouth.
There Is No Way Around Midye Dolma!
Apart from the street stands, you may also find the mussels stuffed with rice and seasoned with pine nuts, currants, cinnamon and several other spices in many restaurants. Midye Dolma are a typical starter, or ‘meze’, that accompanies fish and seafood meals. Turkish people often enjoy the cheap snack together with Raki, the traditional Turkish aniseed spirit.
Although it requires some effort to prepare Midye Dolma, you should definitely give it a try. Unless there is a trip to Turkey in sight! Well, either way, here is our easy and authentic recipe:
- 24 black mussels (scrubbed, beards removed)
- 1 cup cracked rice
- ½ cup pine nuts
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 onions
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tea spoon ground pimento
- 400 grams can diced tomatoes
- 1 tea spoon fresh mint
- 2 tea spoon dill
- ½ cup raisins
- parsley for garnishing
- Wash the rice and let it soak in a bowl of water for 10 mins. Then rinse and drain the rice several times.
- Also soak the mussels in a bowl of luke-warm water for approx. 10 minutes.
- Chop the onion and garlic and fry it in a pan together with oil, the pine nuts and pimento over low heat until the pine nuts get a golden brown color.
- Stir in the rice, tomato and raisins, and cook for 2 minutes, season to taste. Pour over enough boiling water to just cover the rice. Stir, then bring to the boil and cover. Cook over very low heat for 15 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. Tip the rice into a shallow bowl, then stir in the mint and dill. Set aside to cool slightly.
- To prepare the mussels, remove the beards, then hold each mussel by its narrow end, with the pointed edge facing outwards. Squeeze the shells gently from opposite edges at the wider end, creating a small gap. Insert a small sharp knife between the two shells and prise open slightly, taking care not to break them (the idea is to open them slightly, not fully, and for the mussels to stay in their shells). Cut through the foot of the mollusc where it is attached to the shell.
- Spoon a generous amount of the rice mixture into each mussel, then gently close the shells and wipe away any excess filling. Add the mussels to one or two large pans, add ½ cup boiling water to each, cover, return to boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until mussels are just tender. Remove from the heat, uncover and allow the mussels to cool in the pan.
- Serve the mussels at room temperature, or chill for an hour.
- Garnish with chopped parsley and add some sprinkles of fresh lemon juice.
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Photos by ximena, Tom O’Malley