George’s ‘Pipi’ Fritters

To explain, George is the handsome cove who demonstrated this fabulous, fresh, seafood recipe to me. He (along with his wonderful wife Carol) had just happened to have built a stunning beach side villa in a place called Opoutere in The Coromandel area of New Zealand’s north island. I would urge anyone who hasn’t been to visit this incredible area of the world to do so forthwith. By some strange quirk of good fortune, I got to spend three days in this paradise.

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Collecting on the beach, collecting in the bucket and hand

Paphies australis or pipi (from the Māori language) is a bivalve mollusc (so it says here!) which is endemic to New Zealand. The pipi is a shellfish with a solid white, elongated symmetrical shell with the apex at the middle. (To me it was a big clam).
The pipi is abundant on flat sandy beaches, where there is considerable water flow (or in other words just at the back of George’s beach villa!)
By releasing a thread of mucus, which makes them more buoyant, they can move about a bit by floating. They can get up to more than 1000 individuals per square metre. (I can vouch for that! There was loads of them just under us!). You simply rummage around in the sand with your hand at low tide and pick them out. Then throw into George’s bucket! (Mind you don’t get nipped by the crabs though! There’s tons of them too…)

Ingredients (makes around 12 fritters)

Half a bucket of freshly picked Pipis from the low outgoing tide of the Pacific Ocean, preferably in New Zealand. Ours weighed in at about 500g. I reckon you could use a ton of clams or even mussels instead.
2 eggs
Tablespoon of flour
Splash of fish sauce
Pinch of sugar
Pepper
1/2 tsp curry powder and/or chilli powder (to taste. Chopped jalapenos could work well too I reckon)
Oil for frying

1) Leave overnight in clean water. The tentacles will come out and spit all the sand and waste out.
2) Clean and rinse.
3) In a shallow pan, bring an inch of water to a gentle boil. Place the Pipis in batches into the water and wait a few minutes for them to open. Remove with tongs as they open and place in a separate bowl. Repeat until all open.

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The tentacles, steaming, opening up, removing the meat

4) Remove all the meat and discard the shells. This is easy using a your finger thumb. Take care not to eat too many while doing this. They taste wonderful and sweet even at this stage!
5) Finely chop, or ideally mince into a rough paste. (George has a fine old hand mincer)
6) Mix in a bowl with the eggs, flour, fish sauce, pepper, sugar and spices to create a sloppy paste

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Mincing, mixing, dolloping in the pan

7) Cover the bottom of the pan with oil for shallow frying. Heat until smoking.
8) Spoon a good dollop into the pan and flatten down to create a patty around 6-8mm thick. You should be able to do 4 at a time. Fry 3-4 mins on one side until golden brown underneath. Flip carefully with a spatula and repeat.
9) Place on kitchen paper and keep warm.
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We served with sweet chilli sauce, but I’m sure other dips would work too…
I ate mine with my hands.

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