Mussels in Arak

Arak,  is called in Lebanon the “milk of lions”, because there it’s the national drink. In Israel, many Arabs and Israelis are drinking it, because it’s cheaper then Vodka. The special think about this recipe is that Arak is not traditionally used for cooking, but it works here wonderfully, which has a double hit of anise from the Arak (use Pernod if you prefer) and tarragon. The flavor mellows nicely, leaving behind only the slightest hint of anise.

I know that some Israelis will try this out and replace the Arak with Vodka. That’s okay.

Mussels in Arak
Mussels in Arak

This dish or recipe is also easy and quick to make and after a half hour of work you will be finished to eat.


  • 2kg/4lb 8oz fresh mussels
  • 45g/1½oz/3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 shallots, very finely chopped
  • 200ml/7fl oz/scant 1 cup Arak or Pernod
  • 200ml/7fl oz/scant 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tomatoes, very finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • juice of 1½ lemons
  • 3 tbsp tarragon leaves, finely chopped, plus extra for sprinkling
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • warm Arabic Bread or Potato Matchsticks, to serve

Mussels in Arak
Mussels in Arak
  1. Wash the mussels under cold running water, pulling off any beards from the shells (this should be done with a gentle pull in the direction of the “hinge”).
  2. Only do this just before cooking as this process can injure/kill the mussel, which is why some may not open after cooking.
  3. Scrape off any barnacles using the back of a sharp knife and discard any open mussels that don’t close when given a tap on the work surface.
  4. Melt the butter in a large, deep, heavy-based pan over a medium– low heat, add the shallots and cover and sweat for about 3–4 minutes until soft and translucent.
  5. Pour in the Arak and wine and add the tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf, lemon juice, tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste, then stir and simmer for about 2 minutes until reduced by half. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  6. Add 120ml/4fl oz/½ cup water if you find the broth too reduced, then add the mussels.
  7. Cover and cook for 3–4 minutes, shaking the pan gently until all the mussels have opened.
  8. Don’t overcook mussels, as they turn dry and tough. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
    1. Use an union ring while cooking to see if any mussel is alright and not spoiled. If union changes color, something is wrong with the mussels.
  9. Sprinkle with extra tarragon and serve with warm Arabic Bread or Potato Matchsticks.
Mussels in Arak
Mussels in Arak
Mussels in Arak
Mussels in Arak
Mussels in Arak
Mussels in Arak
Mussels in Arak
Mussels in Arak

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