Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pie Press - Butter Chicken Pie

I have been attending the Stonestown Farmers Market since they began, and Pie Press has been a long-time food vendor there, selling their gourmet hand-held savory pies. I have a particular fondness for meat pies, because really, if you take anything and wrap it up in flaky pastry crust it's going to be pretty darn good. The first pie I tried over a year ago from Pie Press was the Butter Chicken. Even today it still remains my favorite.

Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) is actually made with a tomato-cream sauce, though it does contain varying amounts of butter depending on the recipe. It also contains a handful of spices, such as garam masala and cumin, and can be seasoned either mild or super spicy. Pie Press's Butter Chicken falls somewhere in the middle. The first bite seems mild enough, and you first experience the creaminess and saltiness of the sauce, but after you swallow the chili powder takes hold and you notice that boy, this has a kick! But it's not overpowering and actually lends a nice contrast to the acidity of the sauce.

The filling is really the star of the pie show here, and I could happily eat a plate of their Butter Chicken on its own. All of the Indian spices seem to shine, and it has a slight saltiness that lingers on the tongue. The all white-meat chicken is tender and even though it has been baked into a pie isn't dry at all. Bite after bite, sauce oozes out of the shell, and I can taste hints of lemon and garlic in the yogurt sauce. It's divine!

But even the best pie filling wouldn't be complete without a tasty shell, and Pie Press makes a mean crust. It's butter and flaky and baked golden brown. It's crumbly without crumbling in your hand, and its flaky texture is a perfect contrast to the creamy sauce.

Proprietor Alka Patel is originally from New Zealand, and upon moving to San Francisco left her engineering job to start her pie making business and introduce America to these savory goodies. Handheld pies are actually very common in many parts of the world, but here in the States we still associate pies with dessert. That's too bad, as you can really pack an entire meal's nutrients--protein, veggies and starches--into one hand-held delight. It's the perfect lunchtime food!

Pie Press sells their pies at the Stonestown Farmer's Market on Sundays, or you can also order them online at their website. They sell their pies either cold so that you can bring it home and enjoy later or they will warm them up in their toaster oven onsite. I recommend enjoying one right away, but let it cool down a bit; the flavour comes out more when it's slightly less than piping hot.

Rating: 5/5 (ratings guide)

Pie Press (@thepiepress) $5.00 for one pie

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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