Musings on mussels

Musings on mussels

In the 17th century, ‘les moules’ were still known as ‘mouscles’, hence the name of the classic dish ‘mouclade’. The English call them mussels, the Dutch ‘mosselen’, the Italians ‘mitili’ and the Spanish ‘conchas’.

Mussels are high in protein, vitamins and minerals. Compared to meat, mussels have a higher iron, phosphorous and vitamin B content. They also contain only 25 calories per 100 g. A very healthy choice!
The ones you’ll eat in Brussels are North Sea mussels. They’re grown on the sea bottom in beds and the most famous ones come from Zeeland.
The Zeeland Mussel season usually starts in July. The world’s only mussel auction in Yerseke in the Netherlands determines the official date as well as the prices.
Mussels are served in most Brussels brasseries. But the “king” of the mussels is “Chez Léon” (Petite rue des bouchers, 18). For more than 160 years, mussels have reigned supreme in this very nice restaurant. Their basic recipe for “Moules spéciales” is authentic and the genuine article!
But don’t panic, the mussels are served in their own black saucepan. They’re eaten by hand using an empty shell to detach the mussels from their shells. The shells are thrown into the lid.
Never eat a mussel that hasn’t opened after cooking!

Recipe from “Chez Léon”

  • 2 kilos of Zeeland mussels
  • 2 onions
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • butter, water, salt, pepper

Preparation steps:
Wash and scrub the mussels carefully. Dice onions and celery very finely. Take a tall-sided, heavy-based container: casserole dish or stockpot.
Put the vegetables and butter in and brown for 3 minutes.

Add water.
Once boiling, continue cooking over a high heat. Throw away any unopened mussels.
Allow precisely 7 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve piping hot still in the pan together with fairly thick-cut chips or a salad.

Traditional mussel soup
Recipe from the early 18th century

  • 1kg mussels
  • 150 carrots
  • 100 g parsnips
  • 100 g mushrooms
  • 100 g onions
  • 40 g butter
  • 1 teaspoon of flour
  • 2 sprigs of parsley
  • 4 eggs
  • 12 blanched almonds
  • salt, pepper
  • small croutons, toasted to taste

Wash vegetables and cut them into small pieces. Brown in the butter for 7 to 8 minutes over a low heat.
Sprinkle over a little flour, add a litre of water and leave to cook for 40 minutes with the lid on.
Wash the mussels in plenty of water, put them in a frying pan over a high heat with the rest of the butter and the chopped parsley, and cover. When steam escapes, remove the lid, toss the shellfish in the pan, removing them as they open.
Put a dozen or so whole mussels to one side and remove the meat from the others.
Mix the almonds, mussel meat and vegetables in a blender. Set aside in a saucepan. Add the water from the mussels strained through muslin. Bring to the boil.
Into soup bowls, place 2 croûtons, 3 whole mussels and dish up the soup. Set the other croûtons out on the table separately.

  • There are very many recipes for mussels.
  • The most classic ones are:
  • Marinières
  • Vin blanc
  • Provençale
  • Bordelaise
  • Diable
  • Crème vin blanc
  • Crème estragon
  • Crème curry
  • Crème moutarde
  • Crème à l’ail
  • Crème poulette
  • Ricard

  • Other informations

    Moby Dick Lambermont
    Boulevard Lambermont, 166
    1030 Schaerbeek
    T: 02/241 89 62
    Closed Saturday noon and Sunday

    Terrace, dogs allowed

    Brief description: The owner gives you a very warm and friendly welcome in an authentic brasserie setting, decorated to reflect the name of the establishment. Great oyster bar too and a ‘filet américain’ (steak tartare) prepared in the restaurant with real chips (French fries) and home-made mayonnaise.

    Chez Léon
    Rue des Bouchers, 18
    1000 Brussels
    T. 02/511 14 15
    Never closes
    Terrace, air-conditioning

    The go-to place to enjoy mussels. For the last 160 years, this establishment has led the way with the national dish of mussels and chips. Guaranteed fresh given the turnover and the tons of mussels eaten here every year.

    Brasserie la Roue d’or
    Rue des Chapeliers, 26
    1050 Brussels
    T.02/514 25 54
    Never closes
    Terrace, delicatessen, access for disabled

    A lively atmosphere is guaranteed here, just a short walk from the Grand-Place. Worth the diversion for the Art deco surroundings alone, with its wooden seats with the regulars names carved into them.

    Le Zinneke
    Place de la Patrie, 26
    1030 Brussels
    T. 02/245 03 22
    Closed Saturday noon and Mondays
    Terrace, dogs allowed, air-conditioning

    An authentic and welcoming setting. Brussels cuisine takes pride of place as, of course, do mussels.

    Au Vieux Bruxelles
    Rue Saint Boniface, 35
    1050 Brussels
    T.02/503 31 11
    Terrace, dogs allowed
    Situated in a bustling district, this genuine Brussels brasserie has been doing business since 1882. Mussels and chips are undoubtedly one of their specialities. Picturesque, warm and welcoming surroundings. An aptly-named establishment.


    Selection (c) Gastromania