Meat Pies that are not called Pies

Amanda says that the Aussies love their Meat Pie. Here in Canada we have our favorites too.

A very Canadian dish is tourtière which is a double crusted meat pie made with minced pork, veal and beef. It is different from regular pot pies in that the filling is dry and is gently spiced with nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and cloves. Tourtière originated from Quebec but is found in every province with a francophone influence. Given the spices, it’s easy to guess that this is a Christmas dish, a must have for réveillon, the traditional dinner on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

‘Tourtiere: A French-Canadian Twist On Christmas Pie’, NPR – Lynn Neary – Dec 18, 2014 martiapunts/iStockphoto

Although tourtière is a Canadian favorite, the meat pie that I grew up with was quite different. The Jamaican beef patty is a hand-held meat pie made with a flakey crust and filled with spicy hot beef filling. It is an everyday snack, made into a meal by eating two. I used to have it regularly for lunch teamed up with an ice cold soda pop.

The Jamaican beef patty followed me to Toronto, along with all the thousands of emigrants that left the island in the late 1970s. In the early days, when enterprising patty bakers were just setting up, they had issues with the food regulatory agency.

“The product can NOT be called patties,” the agency said. “People will think they are hamburger patties. You can call them pies.”

“But is not pies, man,” the Jamaican said, hissing in frustration. “Is patties!”

As a compromise the product was labeled Jamaican Style Beef Patties.

Nowadays the Jamaican patty is common place. In areas like Toronto, they can be found in food shops in subway stations, shopping malls and even large chain grocery stores. They are so well known, no one ever confuses them with hamburgers and they’re simply known as Jamaican patties.

Like most things though, the original patty has evolved. Last year I was flipping through some web sites, searching for a recipe to make patties at home. I found this article which seemed a likely candidate until I read the end. “Serve hot, or cool slightly, half lengthwise, and place a couple slices of American cheese inside. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes longer.”

“What blasphemy is this?” I thought. “Cheese and patty! Madness!”

It turns out that I was behind the times. I asked around and my younger cousin said this is now a popular option in Jamaica.

“It’s been here for a good while, probably from early 2000’s,” she said. “They call it a Mega Patty!”

Trends catch up and at my local patty shop in Toronto, a menu option is a Jerk Stuffed Patty. I thought it’d be a patty stuffed into a Jamaican sweet roll called a coco bread.

I ordered it and watched as the server split open my patty, covered it with spicy jerk chicken, slathered on coleslaw and stuffed it between a coco bread roll. It was a pretty hefty sandwich. Teamed up with an ice cold soda, it was an awesome lunch.

Stuffed Jerk Patty – Notice my thumbprint from holding the patty together

Toronto, Canada. October 2020


    1. Tourtière is a dish that lends itself to customization. My favorite version is one made by a friend who grew up in Quebec City. His dad owned a Chinese restaurant and every Christmas he made his version which used Chinese spices and finely chopped Chinese vegetables. Yummy.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Such variety in the pie/patty combination, Sandy. I would say they look more like a kind of samosa/jaffle than a patty! But what’s in a name? I think the taste is, of course, the important part. I am definitely not a fan of the rather dry looking French original. Torontp can keep that. I would have to add sauce to it to get it down! Which is most likely sacrilegious.
    I guess this indicates food is a dynamic substance with each generation and country putting its own stamp on each dish?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think tourtiere is a sentimental favorite that’s tied up with all the fond memories associated with it. The pie is normally eaten with a condiment or sauce. Ketchup is a favorite, as is chili sauce, brown gravy, pickles and even maple syrup.
      I can see why you’d think my patty looks like a samosa but it’s not really like that. The photo I showed is a batch that I made, which looks somewhat similar to commercial made one. A better example is shown here
      After thinking about it, I guess my underlying point is that foods evolve according to time and place. I’m sure the origins of the Aussie meat pie & Jamaican patty can be traced back to British meat pies and Cornish pasties. Adoption and adaption changed it. I was thinking about another meat pie adaption in another old colonial country but then I thought — tooo much, I’ll save it for another post 🙂


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