Pies have long been a favorite meal or dessert around the world. In fact, images of pie have even been found carved in the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II. Certain pies elicit thoughts of warm summer days, while others conjure up mental images of a roaring fireplace around the holidays. It’s no wonder this delectable culinary staple has won the test of time. From savory meat pies to fruit-filled masterpieces, pies are compact and loaded with flavor. Let’s take a culinary tour of pie around the world.
England and the Netherlands
This one may come as a bit of a shock, as apple pie has become synonymous with American cuisine and folk culture throughout the last century. Everyone has heard the saying “as American as apple pie”, but this sweet, Fourth-of-July staple is actually an English and Dutch import. An English recipe dating back to 1381 calls for good apples, pears, raisins, good spices and figs, while a Dutch cookbook from 1541 holds a recipe for a similar “appeltaarten”. While the American variation is usually a double-crust pie filled only with apples spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, this modern version was undoubtedly adapted from these earlier recipes.
Today, variations of apple pie are enjoyed around the world. Try it with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or even cheddar cheese.
Bobotie is a South African national dish that was first brought to the country by Malay slaves. This savory pie has been documented in the Cape of Good Hope since the 1600s. While the ingredients have changed throughout the centuries, bobotie pie has always been known for its complementary flavor profile. It consists of a minced meat base topped with a custard or pastry. It was originally made with mutton or pork and spiced with ginger, lemon rind and marjoram. However, today, minced beef or lamb is more commonly used, along with curry powder and dried fruit. Bobotie pie is then garnished with chutney, walnuts and bananas. The sweet and savory flavor profile mixes wonderfully with the curry.
While empanadas don’t resemble a traditional pie, these stuffed pastries are widely popular throughout Spain, Central America, South America and the Philippines. A sweet version is even eaten in Sicily. First mentioned in a Spanish cookbook dating back to 1520, empanadas usually feature a wheat dough and fillings of meat, fish or fruit. Because of their widespread popularity, today’s empanada is truly an international dish made to fit dozens of cuisines. Most people view them similarly to the upcoming hand-held meat pies.
Kuchen — or cake — is eaten throughout Germany in many varieties that resemble either a traditional cake, pie, torte or any combination of the three, and Erdbeerkuchen is one of the most popular “Kuchens”. Known to the English-speaking world as strawberry pie, the German variation of this sweet treat usually involves a relatively thick, cakey crust, which is topped with gelatin-glazed strawberries and whipped cream.
German tradition involves socializing sometime between noon and early evening over “Kaffee und Kuchen” — or coffee and cake. Adopting this delectable tradition provides ample time for tasting pie around the world!
Australia & New Zealand
Meat pies are an iconic dish in both Australia and New Zealand. They have even been described as an essential component of national identity. These savory, hand-sized pies consist of dough filled with minced or chopped meat and gravy. Onions, mushrooms and cheese are other common ingredients, along with a topping of tomato sauce.
Meat pies are strongly associated with rugby and Australian football and are served as a popular stadium snack. Outside of the arena, each country also hosts a meat pie championship — the Great Aussie Meat Pie Contest and Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Awards.
Pastilla — or bastilla, bisteeva or bisteeya — is a traditional Moroccan meat pie that is typically served at the beginning of important meals. The dish traditionally consists of finely shredded or chopped squab, but since squab can be rather hard to find, it is usually replaced by chicken. The poultry meat is simmered in a spiced broth, then layered with a super-thin, crepe-like dough called werqa. The entire pie is toasted and topped with cinnamon, sugar, and almonds. The salty and sweet flavors blend to create a flavor profile that has been described as, “Uniquely Moroccan, intricate and grand, fabulously rich and fantastical.”
Pizza is one of the most famed and popular dishes on the planet. It consists of a flatbread dough, topped typically with tomato sauce and cheese, and baked in an oven. Astonishingly, the term “pizza” first appeared in a Latin manuscript from Southern Italy dating back to the 900s, while modern pizza appeared in Naples in either the late 1700s or early 1800s. Pizza was then brought to the United States by Italian immigrants, with the first American pizzeria — Lombardi’s — opening in 1905 in New York City.
Today, pizza comes in all shapes and sizes. From thin crust to deep dish and traditional tomato sauce to barbecue sauce, pizza has evolved to fit nearly every taste bud on the planet. In fact, in the United States, pizza even has its own month. Every October is National Pizza Month in honor of one of Italy’s most renowned culinary exports.
Spanakopita is a staple of Greek cuisine. The term roughly translates to “spinach pie”, and like the name suggests, the savory treat is comprised of spinach, feta, onions and egg wrapped in buttery and flaky phyllo dough. The pie is then baked in an oven until golden brown. While the exact origins of spanakopita is debatable, it seems to have been adapted from Turkish cuisine around 400 years ago during the Turkish occupation of Greece. No matter its history, this delicious treat tastes like quintessential Greece.
While Belgium is widely known for irresistible Belgian waffles, the European country is also home to suikertaart — or sugar pie. Sugar pie is a single-crust pie filled with a creamy custard. Typically this pie is made from butter, eggs and brown sugar (or maple syrup). Once baked, the filling ends up being dense, yet jiggly. This Belgian dessert favorite has now spread to various parts of the United States and Canada. The Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie is the state pie of Indiana, while tarte au sucre is one of Quebec, Canada’s favorite treats.
By now, your mouth should be watering and your taste buds on high alert. From the traditional apple pie to the more exotic pastilla, each pie on this list is worth a try! Plus, each country and pie around the world is unique and full of history. Historical and an opportunity to taste test the local culture? There is surely no better excuse to eat pie. Make sure to try the local delicacy on your next adventure.
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