The word “pie” has different meanings in different cultures. If you’re from North America, you probably picture a sweet fruit pie, or perhaps even a pizza. If you’re Chinese, the filling is wrapped in something like a bun and fried.
But to Brits and Australians alike, a pie is pastry filled with meat in gravy and baked. For me, it’s comfort food for a cold winter’s night at a football match. And for Matthew Wong and Andrew Papas, aka Two Guys and a Pie, it’s an exciting business venture.
The two Australians met through work in 2011.
“We were both talking about how it was impossible to find an Australian-style pie in Beijing,” Wong told us, “and that was the number one thing we both craved from home. Then we thought as Australians it would be a great idea (and our duty) to introduce this parcel of enjoyment to Chinese and expats.”
Neither had a culinary background, so the process of producing the pies emerged through trial and error.
“After a few months of mucking around in the kitchen, we decided to see what the public thought about it and did a pop up at the xiao mai bu at the corner of Dirty Bar Street. People seemed to enjoy them and no one said they tasted terrible so we considered that a success!”
Our sister publication played a part in their story too.
“Shortly after,” Wong said, “someone posted on The Beijinger asking where to get pies and so we responded and sent them some samples. The poster then put up a glowing review and the expat mags soon featured us. From there we wanted to open the first pie shop in Beijing and what better place than in Sanlitun, strategically located across from Heaven Supermarket’s original location? Serving punters hot pies with mash, mushy peas, and gravy whilst blasting Aussie tunes at 4 am was a blast!
“We did this for a couple more years but with the gentrification of Sanlitun, tighter regulations and family commitments, we made the decision to close the store and focus on events, wholesale and frozen delivery.”
My family sampled a range of their pies, which we served with buttered beans and asparagus, raw carrot sticks and mashed potatoes. (My tip for extra creamy mash- break an egg into the potatoes as you mash them. If the potatoes are still hot the egg will cook, so there’s no concerns about food safety, and it enriches the texture.) And of course we added onion gravy.
The pastry for the pies is a satisfying shortcrust, nicely balanced with the filling. Take care when heating them; as you can see from the pictures, I set the oven to too high a temperature for the first batch, and burned them slightly. I’d recommend about 20-25 minutes at 320 Fahrenheit (160 Celsius).
Our favorite was the beef and cheese, which we were fighting over, though all the flavors went down well. The fillings were a mixture of the traditional and the locally influenced: Guinness and mushroom was a rich taste of home, while the Thai chicken curry was not too spicy for my offspring, who wolfed it down.
Finally, as a treat for dessert, we had warm apple pie, because even for Aussies and Brits, pie can be sweet and fruity too. We added a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And the kids’ verdict?
“Scrumptious to the last morsel,” said Noah, who’s getting the hang of this.
Photos: Andrew Killeen, courtesy of Matthew Wong