Pipis are a kind of cockle, and are also known as Coorong cockles. They're hand-harvested, mainly from the NSW-Queensland border right down to the Great Australian Bight in South Australia. Most often they're about 6cm long, although some grow up to 8cm.
The Australian Pipi had a name change. It was Donax deltoides but is now called Plebidonax deltoides, known locally by many names: Pipi, Goolwa Cockle, Coorong cockle, Ugari and Eugarie. No matter what you call it, it still tastes great.
Our cockles or pipi are regarded as some of the best clams you can buy in the world because they come from such a clean environment. It is a very special product; sustainable. The meat commonly weighs 8-12g, with those harvested from SA typically smaller than those from NSW and Victoria.
◎ Common Name: Pippis, Coorong Cockles, Beach Pipi, Clam, Eugarie, Goolwa Cockle, Ugari
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Plebidonax deltoides
◎ Comparison: Blue Mussels, Surf Clams, Vongole
◎ Seasonality: All year fresh
◎ Region: South Eastern Australia
◎ Taste Profile: These sweet and nutty sand-dwellers have an unmatched firm and satisfying texture.
◎ Types: Plebidonax deltoides or Donax deltoides is a small, edible saltwater clam or marine bivalve mollusc, endemic to Australia. It belongs to the family of either the Donacidae, or the related Psammobiidae.
- Pipis have a 35% meat ratio which makes them a substantial addition to dishes.
- Their benefits are numerous and more are being found. Quite notably they can help protect the heart and are believed to reduce the risks of developing some forms of cancers.
- Pipis are naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- They are a good source of trace minerals such copper, iodine and zinc.
- Cockles also contain iron and potassium.
Aboriginal & Traditional
For thousands of years Ngarrindjeri people have harvested what they call Kuti as an important source of protein in their diet. The pipis were pulled from the sand, cooked on hot coals or mud ovens, then eaten on the beach. The evidence can be readily seen in the many ancient middens – mounds of discarded shells – that dot the dunes around Goolwa and the Coorong.
Western & Modern
Pipis have long been a delicacy in Asia (where they call them “butterfly clams” because of their shell shape). They are now appearing on some of Australia’s best restaurant menus and even on family dinner tables.
They are great steamed, added to soups and paellas, or simply thrown on the barbecue with garlic and oil. Pips can also be poached, stir-fried, baked, grilled, smoked, raw (sashimi), or pickled. The firm flesh works well in soups, curries and stir-fries. The classic Pipi dish is stir-fried with black bean sauce.
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.
Their benefits are numerous and more are being found. Quite notably they can help protect the heart and are believed to reduce the risks of developing some forms of cancers. Sustainably farmed shellfish are among the best possible dietary source of protein, and the protein content is high in essential amino acids and is highly digestible because of the lack of connective tissue.
Note: The term 'Bush Tucker' and 'Bush Food' are not Warndu's preferred terms for Australian Native Ingredients or Australian Botanicals.
Images: Photo by Free Falling Fibers.