Sometimes things fit together perfectly. Pipis are my favourite ingredient and collecting them is my favourite pastime. Every time I head back to my family home on the south-west coast of Victoria I make time to “shuffle” for pipis. On an outgoing low tide you get your bare feet into the sand on the waterline and shuffle until you feel the shells. Then you gather them up with your hands and put them in a bucket of sea water. After they’ve “purged” for a few hours, you cook them. Simple and satisfying.
Armed with my amateur pipi-shuffling technique I recently visited one of the most impressive commercial food harvesting operations I have seen. Goolwa PipiCo is a co-operative working out of the Coorong, south-east of Adelaide. The shells are hand-, or rather foot-, harvested by teams of people and measured on the beach. Stocking numbers are monitored carefully along with the pristine environment from which the pipis are collected. Luckily my skills were not relied upon for the harvest – my delicate feet lasted all of 15 minutes in the near-frozen sand.
Eating pipis cooked in XO sauce has become a bonding tradition for hospitality workers throughout the land when they knock off from their evening shifts. Every major city has a late-night restaurant doing a version of this dish. There, at 2am, you’ll find off-duty chefs and waiters chowing down.
Consider this XO sauce recipe as a starting point for many seafood dishes – the variations are limitless. The umami flavour is a very welcome addition to any knock-together meal.