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A Brief Hand Pie World Tour

Reader Claudia asks if I wouldn’t mind giving some examples of what I mean when I say that a hand pie can be traced to most every wheat eating culture in the world. I think I said Eurasia (and nearby) but Claudia, I would love to.

Looking to Britain first, we’re really shooting fish in a barrel. Just citing the examples made on this blog we’ve got Cornish pasties and pork pies. There are countless others, steak & kidney pie being among the most famous. The Scots have their own version of the hand pie called bridie.

Nipping down to Spain we of course have empanadas and little regional delicacies like Murcian meat pies. France has plenty of pies in its baking canon, though they usually call their double-crust pastries tourtes or galettes. They can be sweet or savory, large or small. They have many types of turnovers also.

Heading to Northern and Central Europe we obviously have knishes, pierogis, derelye, German bierocks (themselves members of the bureka/borek family), Lituanian lasineciai and kibinai, Russian pelmeni, and Romanian plăcintă. Looking south we have Italian stromboli, calzones and panzarotti, and of course Greek spanakopita. Moving over to the Middle East we have fatayer, and obviously the burekas/boreks we’re talking about this week.

Pressing further East into Central Asia and India we’ve got samosas, which can be baked or fried, and their close cousins from Hyderabad, lukhmi. Jump across the border into Nepal and Tibet and you’re in momo country.

In the Steppes we really start going crazy with chebureki (also burek relatives), echpochmaks, samsas, manti, and Mongolian buuz and khuushuur. Turning south we’ve got Chinese xian bing and baozi in near endless variety. Japan has gyōza, Thailand and the Philippines siopao, Malaysia has karipap, Korea mandu, and Indonesia, panada, which are actually empanadas introduced by Spain (they brought them to the Philippines as well).

And speaking of imports, we’ve barely touched on New World hand pies. American has/had the mince pie, and all sorts of turnovers like hot pockets, and pop tarts. Jamaica has patty. Trinidad the aloo pie. Canada the tourtiere. The empanada is of course the hand pie of choice all through Central and South America. There are plenty of empanadas in Africa too, plus others. South Africa has a pepper steak pie I’ve always wanted to try. Australia and New Zealand are awash in British-style meat pies.

So Claudia, I hope I’ve provided enough examples. One might argue I’ve bent the rules here or there by including dumplings of various types, though to me there’s very little difference between a dumpling and a hand pie. Sure, you wouldn’t put one in your pocket to munch on sometime tomorrow afternoon (hmm…) but as examples of wheat dough-enclosed, portable sweet or savory foods, I think they meet the criteria. Disallow them and you still have an iron clad case that wherever you find wheat, you find the hand pie.

This was fun! Thank you.

6 thoughts on “A Brief Hand Pie World Tour”

  1. The southern areas of the Netherlands have worstenbroodjes, which I think fall somewhere under the category of hand pies. They’re sausage wrapped in a yeasted dough.

    1. Never had them, but they look fantastic. Noted, Elisabeth!

      Thank you,

      – Joe

  2. Well that just made me think about hot dogs in a bun. An all-American hand pie? And while we’re at it, hamburgers in a bun. It’s the bun that does it. Otherwise you’d have to eat the hot dog or hamburger on a plate, which means no portability. Oh, the list is truly endless.

    1. Hey Chana!

      Fair point. Do hand-helds count as hand pies? Sandwiches? What about rolls and wraps? I wondered that myself as I went along, which was why I tried to stick to things that were more-or-less fully enclosed. But yes, the world sure is full of on-the-go food, no doubt! We humans are busy creatures.

      Thanks as always for your insights!

      – Joe

  3. My first real job was flipping burgers at Jack In The Box (fast-food, burgers and such, drive-through restaurants for those who may be bewildered). It kept money in my pocket through high school and college and thought me many fundamental business skills that I still use to this day. Favorite shift was early day shift and favorite task was frying the apple hand pies Right before the lunch rush. Although we were forbidden from free eats, I’d always take a bite out of the fried apple pies that didn’t sell… as a quality-control measure to make sure that they really needed to be discarded. I think Jack stopped selling pies many years ago, though.

    1. Quality control is the number one responsibility of anyone selling food to the public. I salute you sir, for your efforts on behalf of the rest of us. You can’t put too high a price on safety.

      Gratefully yours,


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