Food & Drink

Quick and Savory Southern Mussels

A French chef in Charleston simmers Lowcountry mussels and promises you’ll want to sop up every last bit of the broth with a baguette

Photo: CJ Lotz

When chef Nico Romo, who was born in Lyon, France, opened his cozy Bistronomy by Nico restaurant in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, late last year, he crafted a menu that honors both his French heritage and the wealth of ingredients that come from the Lowcountry. During the cold months, he works with local seafood purveyors to order mussels harvested by fishermen in the nearby ACE Basin.

“It’s easy for the oyster farmers around here to pick up some of the mussels that grow all over the coast, too,” Romo says. “The mussels around here are like oyster-meets-mussel. They’ve got a bigger meat, and they’re salty and sweet.”

photo: CJ Lotz

Romo gives the seafood a quick simmer in coconut milk, “and in the classic French style, we give them a base of garlic-herb butter,” he says. Already a guest favorite at Bistronomy, the mussels come with a side of fries, and at home, Romo recommends serving them with crusty bread and a glass of wine. “You’ve got to have some roasted potatoes or a baguette—just something good to dip into that sauce,” he says.If you live along the coast, during cold months, ask local seafood purveyors for Southern mussels, says Romo, who orders his from Lowcountry Oyster Co.

photo: Nico Romo


  • Southern Mussels (Yield: 2–4 servings)

    • ½ can coconut milk

    • 1 oz. cilantro, chopped

    • 1 tbsp. butter

    • ½ tsp. garlic, chopped

    • ½ tsp. fresh ginger, grated

    • 2 cups fish broth or clam juice

    • ½ cup shallots, chopped

    • 1–2 kafir lime leaves (optional; could substitute ½ tsp. of a combination of lemon and lime zests)

    • 2 lb. mussels, rinsed


  1. Mix all ingredients besides mussels in a lidded sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mussels, cover with lid, and simmer until all mussels open up (this happens quickly—just a few minutes).