How to Eat a Patty

Jamaican beef patty

The best portable lunch in the world just might be the Jamaican patty, a flaky rectangular pastry commonly filled with a spicy beef mixture that achieves an almost puréed texture. If you can’t make it to Kingston for the island version but you do make it to New York City, try one from the Jamaican bakeries along Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue.

Jamaican Pride, for example, makes a half-dozen varieties, including spicy beef (their most popular), salmon, vegetable, and ackee, a fruit native to Jamaica that cooks up something like scrambled eggs. And the bakery takes great pains with the patty’s crust, which is tinged orange from a touch of curry powder.

It might be portable, but a single patty makes a meager meal, so coco bread was invented to make the patty into a full lunch. Shaped like a catcher’s mitt, yeast-risen coco bread is spongy and sweet. (Surprisingly, the bread contains no coconut milk but gets its name from the fact that you split it like a coconut to insert the patty.)

A bit of patty history: The pies originated in Galicia, Spain, where they’re called empanadas, from the verb empañar, which means to coat something. (Galicia is a Celtic stronghold where the bagpipe is as likely to be heard as a guitar.) From Galicia, the pie traveled to England’s Cornwall, another Celtic redoubt, where it became known as the pasty. And, finally, English colonialists transported it Jamaica and evolved into the patty, the island’s favorite hand-held meal.

Jamaican Pride Bakery 731 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, New York (718-462-9751)

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