There’s nothing more satisfying than the combination of a flakey, buttery pastry with sweet or savory ingredients. From France’s Quiche Lorraine to Kentucky’s Derby Pie, it doesn’t matter how you make the pie, we’re going to devour it. But, what about the lesser known pies that are just as good, if not better, that haven’t had their day to shine.
Before uncovering these global delicacies, it was imperative to find out about the quintessential American pie: apple pie. We’ve grown up believing that this is one of the greatest food symbols for the US, but why?
A QUICK HISTORY OF APPLE PIE
According to What’s Cooking America, the original apple pie was nothing like what we enjoy today because it was sans sugar and wasn’t supposed to be eaten. Instead, it was used as a vessel to hold the apples. It wasn’t until sugar became more easily accessible and less expensive that it started to take its current form. Interestingly, when you trace the origins of apple pie, it’s more British than anything else. It arrived in the United States like many foods, through migration. When the colonists came, they brought their British recipes and adapted them to incorporate ingredients found in this new land. So, in many ways, it is America wrapped up in a crust; it’s a traditional food that was shaped by its surroundings and evolved over time to become something original.
Now, enough with the formalities, it’s time to unveil some pies from around the world.
As we know, not all pies have to be sliced; the samosa is a perfect example. Another beautiful example of migration, the samosa‘s history starts in Egypt. It was introduced to the Indian Subcontinent when Persians ruled the country. Originally a royal treat, the triangle-shaped pastry is now a popular street food. This hand pie can be filled with spiced potatoes or minced meat, typically lamb, which is encased in a pastry dough and fried until golden brown. What differentiates the samosa from some of the other pastries around the world is its distinct shape. Understanding it’s origin, it’s makes sense that the samosa has a canning resemblance to the Great Pyramids of Giza.
We love Italy’s version of pie more commonly known as pizza, but not as many people are familiar with its spicy, Armenian cousin, lahmajoun. Essentially a flat meat pie, it has a long history that dates back to ancient Babylonian times. The concept was passed to sheikhs that would prepare it while traveling through the desert in caravans where everyone worked to create the lahmajoun from scratch (even grinding the wheat with mortar and pestle). Similar to pizza, the base of the lahmajoun consists of a yeast dough. After rising, the dough is flattened into a disc, topped with seasoned lamb, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and parsley, and cooked in a wood fire oven. Today, it’s a popular food in variations all over the Middle East.
Phillippines: Buko Pie
Established by the Pahud sisters in the 1960’s, buko pie is the Filipino answer to coconut cream pie. After trying different filling options like bananas, cassava and squash, one of the three sisters realized that an abundant, obvious fruit might make a better pie: coconut. After combining the meat of young coconuts mixed with sweetened condensed milk and pouring the ingredients over a flaky crust, buko pie was born. Unfortunately, the pie didn’t get the rave reviews of today. Lucky for us, the sisters did not give up and slowly gained the love of Filipino dessert lovers. In addition to the original flavor, variations of the pie can be found using local ingredients.
Scotland: Cottage Pie
When it comes to comfort food, nothing beats a warm, hearty serving of cottage pie on a winter’s night. Not for the calorie conscious, this dish consists of a hearty minced beef and vegetable mixture topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked until golden brown. This humble pie originated in the late 1700’s in the British Isles and Ireland as a way for everyday families to use leftover meat. Once interchangeable with the shepherd’s pie, a distinction was made based on the type of meat; shepherd’s pie uses lamb while cottage pie uses beef. Today, the dish has been modernized with alternate fillings, including meatless ingredients, and different toppings like mashed cauliflower or sweet potatoes.
If you’ve ever been to a Greek restaurant in the United States, chances are you’ve seen spanakopita on the menu. Made with thin layers of phyllo dough, the exact history of this spinach pie isn’t black and white. Thought to have origins that intersect with the Romans, this savory pie starts with a filling of chopped spinach, feta cheese, onions, and Greek seasonings. The filling is either wrapped in phyllo dough to form a triangle or layered in a pan. If you’re a fan of spanakopita, try some of the other pies from Greece like tyropita, a pie filled with local cheese, or kreatopita, a meaty version.
Walking the line between savory and sweet, the Morroccan bisteeya is an explosion of flavors in a bite. A dish once saved for special occasions, the pie was traditionally filled with a local delicacy, pigeon. Bisteeya has since been adapted to contemporary tastes with the substitute of chicken. To create the lush filling for this North African pie, cinnamon, garlic, saffron, lemon zest, sugar, and orange flower water are added to the chicken. The mixture is topped with sugary almonds and wrapped in a phyllo dough. The pièce de résistance is the cinnamon and sugar that is dusted over the flakey crust after it comes out of the oven. It’s no wonder this pie was served at weddings and during the holidays.