Clams, Cockles, Pipis
A marine bivalve mollusc with a smooth wedge-shaped, cream to pale brown shell (sometimes slightly yellow or green and with pinky-purple bands) containing dark (often bluey-purple) meat. They are found all around the Australian coast and are hand-harvested from the intertidal zone of sandy beaches with good surf (from about 10cm below the surface), mainly south from the NSW/Queensland border to the beginning of the Great Australian Bight in SA.
Beach Pipi, Clam, Coorong Cockle, Eugarie, Goolwa Cockle, Pippie, Ugari.
Available year round from SA, with NSW fishery closed from November to May.
Size and Weight
Meat commonly weighs 8-12g and the shells average 5-6cm (with large specimens around 8cm), with those harvested from SA typically smaller than those from NSW and Victoria.
Surf Clams and Vongole, which can be differentiated by their ribbed or ridged shells.
Sold live. Look for brightly coloured, intact, lustrous shells, that are closed or close when tapped or gently squeezed, and a pleasant fresh sea smell.
Due to their sandy habitat they can contain quite a bit of grit, ask your fishmonger if they have been purged (stored in aerated saltwater for at least 24 hours to eliminate sand), if they haven’t been, see below for purging instructions.
Pipis should be consumed as soon as possible after purchase. Place in a container, cover with a damp cloth and keep in a cool part of the house (not the refrigerator) for a few hours, or store overnight in salted water (see purging directions below). Before cooking, discard any shells that are open and don’t close when tapped or gently squeezed. Freeze meat for up to 3 months below -18ºC.
If Pipis haven’t been purged, place them in a solution of cool water and sea salt (30g salt to each litre of water) for several hours, or overnight, in a cool part of the house (if you refrigerate them they’ll close up and won’t ‘spit out’ the sand).
Average yield is 20-30%. They have a strong, rich flavour, medium oiliness and moist, firm flesh. Remove from the heat as soon as they open, as they quickly shrivel and become chewy if over cooked.
While traditional wisdom was to discard shells that don’t open when cooked, you can pry them open, away from the plate, and, if they smell good, eat them; if they’re bad, they’ll have a distinctly ‘off’ aroma.
Steam, poach, stir-fry, bake, grill, barbecue, smoke, raw (sashimi), pickle. The firm flesh works well in soups, curries and stir-fries. The classic Pipi dish is stir-fried with black bean sauce.
Goes Well With
Strong flavours; Anchovies, chilli, Chinese black beans, coriander, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, tomato, Worcestershire sauce.
Blue Mussels, Surf Clams, Vongole.
Mixed Shells in White Wine Sauce with Chorizo
Pipis in Black Bean Sauce
Stir-fried Pipis with Tomato Chilli Sauce