Midia Dolma: Armenian Stuffed Mussels

My first encounter with midia dolma was in autumn 1968 at an upscale Armenian wedding reception on Long Island.

It wasn’t a large affair, but it was lavish. The reception was catered by an Armenian restaurant in New York City that had a fabulous reputation; the food was impeccable.

I had just turned 19. My younger brother, Drew, and I were lingering around the buffet table filled with luscious appetizers, eyeballing a platter of something we’d never seen before – mussel shells stuffed with mussels, rice, something that looked like little raisins, and pine nuts.

It looked intriguing, but we hesitated. One of the older guests assured us it was worth tasting, so we figured “what the heck.” One bite was all it took! The flavors were unique, and addictive.

Drew and I couldn’t get enough. A platter would arrive; we’d polish it off. This went on for a platter or two more. We finally had our fill, and feeling a little guilty, decided we’d better let others have some, too.

I mentioned to my Aunt Arpie that I’d love to make this recipe, but it looked like so much work. Lucky for me she had a short-cut recipe that she shared.

I’ve been using it for years. Now I’ll share it, too.

Midia Dolma (Armenian Stuffed Mussels)

Mussel shells stuffed with mussels, rice, currants, and pine nuts
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Chilling Time 1 d
Total Time 1 d 35 mins
Course Appetizer

Ingredients
  

  • 1 onion, large (finely chopped)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup rice
  • 1 cup water & mussel juice (combined. I use canned mussels for this recipe; it’s so easy! Drain as much liquid from the canned mussels as you can, then add enough water to make 1 cup)
  • 1 can of mussels, large (in brine, NOT marinated mussels. 2 small cans can be used instead. )
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (or to taste. Warning! Too much cinnamon can make the recipe bitter.)
  • ½ cup dried currants (or raisins. If using raisins instead of currants, chop them.)
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 1 lemon, whole (juiced)

Instructions
 

  • In a medium saucepan, sauté onion in oil until softened, but not brown.
  • Add rice and water-mussel juice combination to the onion.
  • Add seasonings. Mix. Cover and cook until rice is tender (about 15-20 minutes).
  • While rice is cooking, rinse and de-beard the mussels. Set aside.
  • Add currants and pine nuts to cooked rice. Gently fold in the mussels.
  • Adjust seasonings, if necessary.
  • Add lemon juice to the mixture.
  • Cover and chill until ready to serve. For best flavor, make a day in advance.
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8 Comments

  1. Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 11:06 am

    it is not armenian it is something strange

    Reply
    1. Anonymous December 24, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      Yes it is. Definitely. I ate it growing up. My grandmother made it.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous April 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    to the comment its something strange, it is not strange but utterly delicious

    Reply
  3. Anonymous August 23, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    This was one of my favorite food when I was a kid. My grandmother women group use to make this in Detroit in the 40's. She came for Istanbul, but Armenian. They don't do it anymore because it takes to much time. All the shells need to be scrubbed

    Reply
  4. Anonymous March 28, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    It is not Armenian.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous July 6, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      It is Armenian dish It was made by Istanbul Armenians labor intensified dish, also TOPIK dish made with cheek pees all historic traditional Istanbul Armenian dishes.

      Reply
  5. Bob Hartunian August 16, 2012 at 6:06 am

    I watched my grandmother from Adapazar make midia dolma from mussels taken from the pier footings when the Pacific Ocean had the correct season for collecting mussels. She used steel wool to scrub the shells clean and cooked them to open the shells and then stuffed the cooked filling inside and refrigerated the batch so you ate them cold. They were absolutely delicious. They were not made often because of the labor and time involved but for special occasions she would devote all day to the process.

    Reply
  6. Alyssa Makinajian September 30, 2012 at 2:12 am

    I grew up eating this dish and the recipe is printed in Treasured Armenian Recipes, published by the Detroit Women's Chapter of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, Inc. My volume is the 24th printing, 1980. So it is Armenian enough for me! I always make it the "easy" way, but with fresh mussels. By adding them to the pot before the rice is done, the rice finishes while the mussels steam, filling them with no effort.
    The ingredients for the filling are essentially the same as for "fancy rice pilaf" published in the same book. The pilaf substitutes chicken broth for water and incorporates chicken liver and hearts. My family stuffed the Thanksgiving Turkey with this pilaf, as I have also done. We call it "Armenian Stuffing," of course.

    Reply

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