When deciding what Australia’s national dish is, it’s often a toss-up between sausages, pavlova, vegemite and meat pies. Well… sausages are German, Pavlova is from New Zealand and Vegemite was developed as a replacement for Marmite, the English spread, after World War 1. That leaves us with the humble meat pie.
Australians eat on average 12 meat pies a year, that’s 270 million pies! To be honest, New Zealanders love the meat pie just as much as we do, but just as we claimed pop artist “Lorde” as our own, we will gladly claim the best pastry item to grace bakery and service station shelves. So here’s everything you’ll need to know about the Aussie meat pie, (including where to buy the best ones in Sydney).
The concept of the pie can be traced back to the early Neolithic period where a paste of barley, grains and semolina was filled with honey and cooked over hot coals. This concept was then taken by the Greeks who developed the meat variety of pie. This time the dough was made out of flour and water and wasn’t meant to be eaten. The casing of the pie was referred to as a “coffin” as it was hard and inches thick. The pie crust was used as more of a cooking technique than anything, as there were no metal baking dishes. Some historians believe that the tough crust was often fed to those living in the servant’s quarters or crumbled to thicken soups. Unlike the beef or chicken pies we know today, these thick crusts were filled with almost anything including oysters, fish, innards and lampreys.
Due to the popularity of the meat pie in Europe it is believed to have been brought over to Australia during colonisation. The meat pie was a great settler’s food as it relied on meat, rather than fruit and vegetables, and wheat, which were the most popular types of agriculture at that time. The meat pie was also cheap as you could hide various types of meat inside it.
The fillings and pastry have improved since those early days of colonisation, and although the origin of the meat pie is not Australian, we love it all the same.
An Australian Icon
I told you that Australian’s love meat Pie’s, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that in 1927, guests attending the opening of old parliament House in Canberra dined on free meat pies. Our love of the meat pie was also shown in 1987 when the 90cent stamp, issued as part of the “Aussie kids” series, featured two young boys eating meat pies. Former NSW premier Bob Carr has described the Meat pie as Australia’s national dish which is unsurprising as the Melbourne Cricket ground sold 300,000 meat pies last year. WE LOVE PIES!
Types of pie
The meat pie comes in a wide variety of flavours. I’m sorry to dissapoint but our favourite meat pies are not filled with crocodile or Kangaroo. Our favourite type of meat pie is undoubtedly beef, closely followed by chicken. One of my personal favourites however is the curry pie, a delicious chicken curry wrapped in flaky pastry. It’s amazing! Other favourite variations include the beef and mushroom, chicken and asparagus in white sauce and the steak and kidney for the more adventurous.
There are a large number of filling combinations but the pie pastry often remains the same. Traditionally a pie is made of shortcrust pastry on the bottom and sides and flaky puff pastry on the top. It is also traditional that pies are accompanied with tomato sauce (similar to ketchup). There is still heated debate however as to whether you put the tomato sauce on top of the pie or dip the pie into the tomato sauce (I put mine on top).
Another favourite type of meat pie is the party pie. The party pie is a tiny pie, often accompanied by sausage rolls, which are heated at home in an oven and served to party guests. Almost every Australian Child will have had party pies at their birthday parties growing up.
Another classic variation on the meat pie is the pie floater, recognised as a South Australian Heritage icon by the National Trust of Australia in 2003. The pie floater is a thick green pea soup served with a floating meat pie and a dollop of tomato sauce. Peas and meat pies are a classic flavour combination, with shops like “Harry’s Cafe de wheels” selling meat pies with optional mushy peas on top.
The pie directory
Hopefully by now you’re intrigued and can’t wait to taste an Aussie meat pie. Of course you will have to come to Australia First! But once you’re here, I have compiled a list of places in Sydney where you can purchase gourmet, classic and budget meat pies.
Black star Pastry
277 Australia St
Newtown NSW 2042
C1 85-113 Dunning Ave
Rosebery NSW 2018
24 Arden Street, Waverley NSW 2031
Shop 58 | Ground Floor
Queen Victoria Building, 455 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(also other locations)
Bourke st Bakery
633 Bourke St,
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(this one is right near the ACU North Sydney campus)
Shop 17, 105 Miller St,
North Sydney NSW 2060
(also other locations)
Harry’s Cafe de wheels
There are lots of Harry’s Cafe de wheels outlets across Australia. Famous for putting mushy peas on their pies Harry’s cafe de wheels is fantastic!
The classic road trip pies outside of Sydney:
Corner Pacific Hwy And Masonite Rd,
Heatherbrae NSW 2324
4/186 Pacific Highway,
Tuggerah NSW 2259
Almost every suburb will have a local bakery where you can buy a meat pie. There are also local favourites. Ask your Australian friends where you can get the best meat pie and I’m sure that almost everyone will have an opinion.
Have you ever tried a meat pie? What did you think?! Let me know in the comments below!