Zeeland, the most Western province in the Netherlands, is famous for its mussels, specifically the towns of Bruinisse, Tholen, Yrseke, and Zierikzee. The fishing town of Yerseke in Zeeland is the mussel epicenter of northwest Europe; approximately 90 million kilos of mussels a year come from Yrseke alone. The majority of the mussels go straight to buyers in Belgium, where mussels and fries are considered a staple dish, but in the Netherlands we are also known to enjoy a big pot of mussels, especially when spending a day on the coast.
Traditionally, mussels were on the menu when the letter "R" was present in the name of the month, i.e. starting in September, but nowadays they're available as soon as July.  As soon as they're ready for harvesting, advertisements pop up everywhere, and from September until about April you can find these bivalve mollusks on the menu at restaurants, for sale at the fishmongers, and on many a dinner table all over the country. And it sounds odd, but once I see the advertisements, I start craving them. It's one of those typical "gezellig" things to do: get a big pot of steamed mussels on the table, gather some good friends, a bit of wine, a salad, a crispy baguette, a couple of dipping sauces, and get the party started! 

Fresh mussels are not available to all of us, but nowadays it's quite easy to get good quality frozen ones, so look for them in your grocery stores. About a pound per person is enough for dinner, if you serve it with a salad, fries, and bread, otherwise you may consider a pound and a half, two if they're big eaters. I serve mine with a traditional mustard dipping sauce, but you are welcome to bring your own: curry-flavored dipping sauces and herby ones like a yogurt-parsley sauce also go really well. 

Don't eat the ones that don't open up during the cooking process: they're likely to be bad. Also, watch out for broken shell pieces. 

4 pounds (approx. 2 kg) fresh or frozen mussels, in shell
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 carrot, peeled and diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns

Dipping sauce
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise 
1/2 tablespoon vinegar

Mix into a smooth sauce.

Give the mussels a quick rinse (no need to thaw), and check for "beards": little hairy-looking extensions protruding from the shell. Carefully pull those off, if you find them. 

Put the rest of the ingredients in a Dutch oven, or another big pan with a heavy bottom and a lid. Bring to a boil. Lift the lid, add the mussels and boil for seven to eight minutes, tossing the contents of the pan every now and then. The mussels will open up and will be ready to eat.

To serve, place the pan on the table with an extra plate for the shells. Serve with fries, a green salad, and a dipping sauce. Use your fingers to pull the mussels out of the shells or a small fork, and dip into the sauce. 

Smaokelik! (as they say in Zeeland!)


  1. Heerlijk, Zeeuwse mosselen.

    Alleen een echte Zeeuw maakt ze iets anders.

    1 bodempje water in een grote pan (je kan wat fijn gesneden wortel en ui toevoegen) mosselen erin en dan op een vuur koken totdat de mosselen open zijn.

    Als je ze op deze manier eet heb je de echte, volle zilte smaak van de mosselen als je ze eet.

    Verder alleen maar lekkere dingen hier op de site. Ik kom zeker terug.


  2. For me only fresh mussels. A bit of leek, parsley and, carrot. No extra water. For me the delicate taste won't stand stronger tastes like garlic or shallots. But then, I eat smoked salmon just as it is and drink my whisky neat. No ice or water whatsoever. Oh, the white wine goes into the sauce.


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