Midye Dolma, Stuffed Mussels, or “Paella Bites”
(Above) A simple and impressive dish of Midye Dolma. Photo courtesy Aliya Uteuova
Stuffed mussels, or Midye Dolmasi, is a common street food in Turkey. Midye in Turkish translates to mussels, a mollusk that is common in that country, which is surrounded by the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.
I first tried this dish in the coastal town of Izmir back in 2015. Foodstands with hundreds of mussels stuffed with rice can be found within steps of each other in Izmir Sahil (sahil in Turkish means the seaside). To me, a perfect summer night would be getting a bag of midye dolmas, splitting them with a friend, and watching the waves splash on the shores of the Izmir Gulf.
Luckily, this iconic Turkish street dish can be recreated at home. If you are looking to surprise your friends with an impressive yet simple dish, look no further.
- 2 lbs. Maine mussels
- 1 medium to large onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup short grain rice
- 1 tomato, very finely chopped or grated
- Handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- Handful of finely chopped fresh dill
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes or chili flakes
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 cup hot water
- Salt to taste
- Lemon wedges to serve (optional)
- Place the rice into a sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Drain the rice and set aside. In the meantime, put mussels into warm water (this makes them easier to open).
- Make the stuffing first (you can also make the stuffing a day ahead of time). Heat the oil in a medium-sized pan and stir in the onions. Sauté over medium to high heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the rice, chopped tomato, tomato paste, spices, and season with salt to your taste. Pour in the hot water and combine all well. Bring to the boil then cover to simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Rice will be “al dente” and still have a bite to it. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
- Once cool, add the chopped dill and parsley to the rice and combine well. Check the seasoning and add more salt or ground black pepper if you’d like. You can cook the rice a day ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, covered.
- Place the mussels in a large bowl and rinse under cold water. Discard any broken or open mussels. Clean and scrape off any dirt from the mussel shells. Using a blunt knife, carefully force the point of the knife into the gap at the pointy end of each mussel. If the mussels are large, slice through the meat so the shell opens with half the meat attached to each half shell – once you cut through the thick, round connecting muscle at the bottom of the mussel, it will be easy to open (but don’t cut all the way through).
- Leave the two halves connected. Put about 2 tsp. of stuffing into the middle of each mussel (try not to overfill) and push the half shells together again.
- Place the mussels in a wide heavy pan, with the tips pointing outward toward the edge of the pan. The key is to stack the mussels tightly so they don’t open up entirely. There should be one layer of mussels, so if you have mussels left over, use another pan to continue layering. Place a wide plate over the mussels to prevent them from opening too wide while they cook (this is important). Using a pan that’s slightly smaller will ensure that mussels are placed tightly next to each other and prevent them from opening up.
- Add a cup of hot water to the pan; the water level should only reach the bottom half of each shell. Cover the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove the mussels from the heat. You can serve this dish warm or cold. Traditionally, Midiya Dolmas are eaten without utensils. When you break open a mussel, use the empty shell to scoop out the mixture from the bottom shell, adding a squeeze of lemon juice as you eat.
Note: This recipe was modified from “Ozlem’s Turkish Table” CLICK HERE