Where we live this is the end of the school holidays. Last week, we went for few days to the Great Lakes area in NSW. If you that does not ring a bell, think Seals Rock-Blueys Beach-Boomerang Beach-Forster area. That area has long white sand beaches with barely anyone on them. We went pipis hunting, or rather pipis harvesting.
What are pipis?
Pipis are clams, in other words, a small edible bivalve species fund in Australia between the QLD/NSW border all the way to South Australia.
Pipis are also known as also known as Coorong cockle, eugarie, Goolwa cockle and ugari (Ref – Sydney Fish Market). Pipis live ten to twenty centimeter deep in the sand in the intertidal zone of the surf. You will often see pipis shells along the foreshore in areas where these clams are present.
If not harvesting them, you can find pipis at fish mongers, especially in ares with asian communities.
Rule of thumb as for any foraging: only take what you need, no more.
The second consideration is the location of the area. Check, there may be restrictions.
Last consideration is the size. Where we go, when pipis in an area are all below 2 cm large, this is probably because they are either over-harvested or not so happy there, I don’t take them then, as normally they would be around 5 cm large.
Be ready to get wet! One way to go about it is to do the “pipi danse”. That method is very popular with children, more fun! It consists of swinging your legs when the wave come up so your feet “dig” into the sand, this will expose pipis or you will feel them with your feet. The other way is to dig with your hands here and then, this method is generally quicker. Watch out for those bigger waves!
Pipis are really quick at burrowing in the sand, so when some get exposed you will need to be quick and pick it up.
How to cook pipis?
Pipis live in the sand and open slightly to filter water and feed themselves. As a result, pipis shells may contain a fair bit of sand. You will need to desand them by placing them overnight in a large bowl with cool water and salt (30 g / L of water). If you place them in the fridge, they will not open up and release the sand.
Pipis cook quickly and require heat. The most simple way is with salted butter and crashed garlic. Place the butter and garlic in a saucepan or tall edge frypan and once the butter is melted throw in the pipis. Cover with a lid. You will see and hear all the pipis open up. Once they are all open, remove from the heat and serve straight away with a large salad.
You could very well add some fresh chilli during the cooking, or 1/2 glass of dry white wine. You can also used a tomato base to cook them in.