The Goolwa Pipi or ‘cockle’ or in fact, or Kuti as it is known in local aboriginal culture, is a pretty amazing little creature no matter what you call it. Unlike it’s somewhat lazier cousin, the mud cockle that sits in the mud in intertidal waters, the pipi must battle for its very existence every day. You see, South Australia’s Goolwa pipi lives in one of worlds’ most powerful and hostile surf zones, where the Southern Ocean swell is often big enough to pick up a car and suck it out to sea as if it were a twig. In fact, in decades passed, fisherman lost many a vehicle to the hungry sea, often rendered helpless by a rogue wave.
However, it is the power of the surf that gives the smooth shelled pipi its unique texture. The firmness of the meat from the pipi, which is preferred by most chefs, comes from the fact that the pipi is literally hanging on for its existence in the ever pounding surf zone. It does this with what is commonly known as its ‘foot’, which it uses to dig itself into the sand between waves. This constant workout and high muscle content contributes the Goolwa pipi’s unique texture and flavour.
Another interesting point is that the pipis have two syphons that also protrude from the shell when it is feeding. In essence the top syphon is its mouth and the bottom one is, er, just that, its bum. These two syphons play an important role in the desanding process. By immersing the pipis in our specially designed seawater tanks, instead of its natural environment of the surf zone, the pipi is encouraged to ingest clean water and excrete the residual sand in its gut from the beach. Of course this oversimplifies the process, because our tanks have been designed from 20 years of experience, but the principle is relatively simple. Water in one end, sand out the other.