Pipis and Christmas Long Stockings

Have you ever been to Silvas in Petersham? Man, that place serves up some mean Portuguese. It’s so my kind of place – loud, straight to the point, big flavours and seriously good food. I love almost everything they’ve got. From espetada, those vertical skewers studded with large hunks of beef partnered with squares of golden fried polenta, to barbecued Portuguese chicken, moist, garlicky, charred, hinting of chili. Then there’s this soft cuttlefish with a sauce of godknowswhat – I think it’s a reduction of soy and balsamic, but they won’t tell me. Oh and the sardines. Jesus. So simple, and so bloody good. There’s also pipis, one of those specials on the blackboard that never seem to disappear. A 5 year special I’d say. So good I can’t even explain. Though not as omnipresent at the tables of the large Portuguese families stuffing their faces with the awesomeness of charcoal grilled chicken, to me, it’s an equally convincing reason to hit the road and seek seafood salvation at Silvas.

Pipis are not commonly found on the menus of Sydney restaurants, are they? I hardly spot them, unless they’re smothered with X.O. sauce, in which case they also rock. I love these little molluscs. Gather them or buy them live. A kilo is a meal for two, or one. Steam them kindly or cook them gently with a half reduced cup of dry white wine like I did. Cover them until they open and then stop before they overcook. Make beurre blanc, but use garlic instead of shallots and stick with wine and lemon juice for acidity, forgoing the vinegar. Add roughly chopped parsley (to qualify the dish as rustic, of course). The cooking liqueur of the pipis is usually too gritty for me, so I discard that. Toss the cooked pipis in the beurre blanc and make sure you have plenty of bread to mop up the juices. Or just go to Silva’s and order the pipis special. I’d wager a bet it’s still there.

P.S. Merry Christmas! Hope this year has been kind to you, your family and friends. My thoughts and prayers go to my own good friend Steve Shaw. I hope the new year sees your recovery. We love you Stevo!


  • Hi Fouad
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!!! I hope Steve recovers soon too! I need to go to Petersham and try the pipis at Silvas. This is definitely not a Brazilian recipe.

  • I think I need to go to Silvias, to have pippies on the menu is pretty unusual for Sydney indeed. They are something I cook at home as I adore them so. Merry Christmas & happy New Year to you and the family.

  • Oh, I adore pipis, particularly cooked with lots of provenzal, but every single damned time I have them I grieve over The Pipis that Got Away.

    I was about twelve and staying at a friend’s house at the beachside suburb of Elwood, and we went to the beach. Poking around on the beach I discovered the motherlode of pipis and overjoyed, started filling up our play buckets with them. When we had about two or three kilos of the things and were ready to take them back to the house for cooking and devouring, my friend’s mother, whose idea of cooking was opening a tin of frankfurts, washing some iceberg lettuce and putting both on the table with a bottle of store-bought dressing, told me to put them back. “But they’re delicious!” I told her. She insisted that they must be put back, citing possible poisonousness, contamination, and foreignness. I told her that I knew exactly what they were, and water was clean (which was true then). Then she said that they’d be too much trouble to cook. So I told her something I was convinced would sway her: “Ring my ma! She’ll tell us how to cook them!” She got stern then, and I had to put them back. It wasn’t until later that I remembered how jealous she was of my mother’s prowess in the kitchen, but to this day I mourn those pipis.

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