The patty is probably the best known fast food in Jamaica. This meat- or sometimes vegetable-filled meat pie is favored by rich and poor, young and old – for lunch, or a snack or sandwiched between a coco bread, a soft buttery roll, a meal.
Said to be a direct descendant of the Cornish pasty, the Jamaican patty is made most often with beef, which is enclosed in a
flaky shell that has been brushed with egg yolk or tumeric, depending on the baker, to give it a reddish-yellow color.
The patty has evolved over the years and now comes in a variety of fillings – chicken, shrimp, lobster, fish, vegetable, callaloo, ackee and cheese. Beef, though, still remains the favorite.
Patty is big business, with as you can imagine, hundreds of patty shops around the island and in Jamaican communities abroad. Many popular eateries, like Juici Beef here, began as patty shops. (Juici Beef is now in all fourteen parishes and has a factory in Canada. Tastee, another popular patty place has several locations on the island and distributes in the Caribbean.) Golden Krust, which started in New York and now has about 120 franchises in the U.S. credits a substantial portion of its revenue to patty sales. It now supplies patties to Wal-Mart, the New York Public Schools, and correctional facilities.
There’s an art to eating a patty. Fresh from the oven, it is hot enough to cause burns. In fact, some restaurants in New York, display a sign right above the patty oven to warn customers.
My preference is to let the patty cool a bit before digging in. But usually by the time I reach for a patty, I’m quite hungry and maybe because I’m hungry, I think I convince myself that my hunger will insulate my tongue. No such luck. I’ve been burned several times!
A friend of mine opens hers up so the filling can cool faster, then she eats it with a knife and fork.
So the key to eating a patty, is to take your time. And if you’ve made a patty-coco bread sandwich or, as we used to call it in high school, a coco-pat, go even slower — the coco bread doesn’t cool the patty down any faster.
If you’ve had a Jamaican patty, do share your tips for eating it.