Cornish Pasty v. Curry Puff

The Cornish Pasty is the iconic food of Cornwall. Everywhere we went during our holiday there a few weeks back, the delicious smell of pasties wafted out at us from bakeries and whole shops devoted to the speciality. They are savoury portable meat pies in a distinctive half moon shape. To my Eastern eye, they look like giant curry puffs.

The outer case of the pasty is made of golden brown pastry that crackles and flakes as you bite into it. Its shape comes from folding a large circle of pastry over the filling and braiding the resulting curved edge. The traditional filling is steak and potatoes but these days, there’s lamb and mint and steak & stilton and a whole range more. They have a satisfying, heavy feel in your hand, about the size and weighty book.

Curry puffs are much smaller. They can be the same handbag shape as a pasty or sometimes can look like a fatter and shorter sausage roll. Inside, the filling is made of minced pork, chicken or beef, onions, vegetables and potatoes fried in dry spicy curry. You can get fried puffs with crispy oily pastry or baked ones with flaky puff pastry. Even describing it now makes me drool…. Bizarrely, the best curry puff I’ve had was at the canteen in Singapore General Hospital some years back.

Pasties are really yum on a blustery Cornish day. We shared one in Falmouth as Hurricane Gordon blew itself in across the Atlantic, the sky glowering darkly and the sea sharp and choppy in the bay. The light drizzle was like a sheet of pins thrown at us by the wind. A hot pasty in our hands, steaming in the cold, was just what we needed.

But there is always a slight disappointment in the back of my mind. Tasty as pasties are, they strongly retain their ancient British identity as solid, rather bland but nourishing food. They aren’t - and never will be nor should be - spicy, meaty curry puffs wafting of garlic and coriander and burning your mouth with the more pugnacious taste of the East. Sigh. I do miss a good curry puff eaten in the sweltering heat of a street market…

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Can you tell which is the pic of Cornish Pasties and which of Curry Puffs?

Picture A curry-puff.jpg

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Picture B cornishpasty.jpg

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Answer: A = Curry Puffs; B = Cornish Pasties

6 Responses to “Cornish Pasty v. Curry Puff”

  1. oj Says:

    Sometimes I wonder - did Cornish pasties come first, or curry puffs? As you point out, apart from their size (and the spiciness of the fillings!), they are very similar!

    Oh and hello - just stumbled on your blog.

  2. Yang-May Ooi Says:

    Hi oj - I like to think curry puffs came first, of course! And thanks for stumbling along!

  3. Connor Says:

    Hi,

    It my understanding that the Singapore curry puff originated in the 1950’s, in which case the cornish pasty is much older. In any case, the puff pastry was an export from England during and after the British Empire. The Cornish pasty originated as food for miners in the cornish tin and lead mines. Lead is toxic so the miners needed lunch that could be held without touching the part that would be eaten, hence the thick pastry rim that would be held and then thrown away by the miners (there was no food packaging in those days). The rim is smaller these days and eaten.

    Still, it really does not matter which came first. The curry puff was adapted from a malasian food, I have no idea when that was invented. The important thing is the taste. Can anyone supply me with a curry puff recipie, and tell me how long they should be deep fried for?

  4. Yang-May Ooi Says:

    Hi Connor - I’ve just come back from Barcelona and they seem to have a version of the Cornish pasty/ curry puff there too! I’m afraid I don’t have a recipe for either - I’m good at eating it but not so clever at the making part…

  5. Anitakrishlee Says:

    Hello,

    Just stumbled on your exciting blog. I’m going to spend some time lurking around here :)

    There’s a good recipe available on Rasa Malaysia. I’ve tried the curry puff recipe once and it turned out very authentic. If it reminds you of home, it has to be authentic :)

  6. Yang-May Ooi Says:

    Thanks for the recipe link, Anitakrishlee

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