The Mussel Ka Surwa at the Shafali Restaurant in Ottawa consisted of very large mussels on the half-shell in a chili-hot yoghurt-based sauce.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this dish based on the name. I recognized ‘Mussel’ easily enough, of course, but the ‘Ka Surwa’ didn’t initially mean anything to me. I am still not sure what the ‘Ka’ signifies, but I have since come across other dishes with ‘Surwa’ as part of the name, and, as far as I can determine, this seems to signify ‘gravy’. Given the typical spice combinations used, the end result is really what many Westerners would think of as a ‘Curry Sauce’.
Anyway, the appetizer menu at Shafali did specify that there was a sauce made with Yoghurt involved in this dish and I was a little hesitant about ordering it, as I really am not a huge fan of soured dairy products like Yoghurt. I will cook with them, but only as that sems to diminish the very sharp, sour milk taste I dislike in the raw products. I wasn’t sure if the ‘Surwa’ at Shafali would be cooked to that degree but, happily, I enjoyed the sauce very much.
The dish consisted of six very large Mussels that I would guess were New Zealanders in origin, possibly being of the ‘Green-lipped Mussel’ variety that have become increasingly more available in my locality in the past few years. I have eaten these elsewhere, and cooked with them at home, and I find them to be an excellent choice for dishes involving Mussels. Here, the meat was very fresh and, in a somewhat novel approach, were left on the half-shell.
The sauce used a complex blend of spices. Aside from Cumin and Turmeric, I really couldn’t specifically identify anything else by taste alone, but there was clearly a considerable amount of ground chili in the mix as this sauce was hot enough to make my sinuses water.
The tanginess of the Yoghurt was just right and the only quibble I had with the dish was that the acidity had been offset with just a touch too much sugar which detracted from the otherwise perfect balance of this dish. That didn’t spoil the dish at all, by any means, and, all in all, I thought the Mussel Ka Surwa at Shafali an excellent appetizer dish.