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The Cornish Pasty

Cornish flag

Uzbekistan pasties

Samsa and manty
(see footnote)


The account (below) appeared in a Lonely Planet travelogue about a trip to Uzbekistan. It recounts the serving of a pasty during a holiday and is relevant to the history of our Cornish pasty.

The possibility is raised that the Phoenicians brought the pasty from the Mediterranean. From its total prevalence across Cornwall, I would say it was t'other way round. Then, travellers on the Silk Road, which reached from the Mediterranean all the way back to China, took the pasty further.  The travellers along the Silk Road were a potent factor in the mixing of cultures and cuisine along its route.

The Cornish pasty could have been taken to Central Asia in this way. The Phoenicians were a trading force in the period 1200-900 BC.  The finding of the Uzbek pasty would support the belief that the pasty was a dominant part of Cornish/Celtic cuisine at least at that time, if not before, when the Phoenicians traded in Cornwall for tin (and pasties?). This period coincides with the Late Bronze Age. 

The cave painting in Scilly must surely pre-date the Phoenicians - but more about this later ......

The account,verbatim

"I am a Cornishman living in Hong Kong, and my wife and I have just come back from a three week holiday in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran, essentially looking at the art and architecture of the cities along the old Silk Road trading route which led into China. It really was a fascinating experience. Anyway, the purpose of this letter is to tell you about a very interesting culinary discovery which just might have some relevance to Cornish history.

In Uzbekistan, in the ancient city of Samarkand we were invited to have dinner in the home of a local official, and we were served what was undoubtedly a Cornish Pasty. Yes, the real thing, smaller, and using mutton and onion instead of beef and shallot, but the texture of the pastry, the crimping, even the way the pastry was cut round a plate - it was unmistakably a pasty. Also the methodology of cooking the pastry and the meat at the same time was identical.

My immediate thought was that this had been "exported" by Cornish miners in the early 1900's - as is generally the case when one is served pasties in the USA or in Australia. However, there is no history of Cornish miners going to Central Asia, and in fact our host said these "pasties" were a traditional Uzbek dish, and had been made like that for centuries.

This set me thinking about where the Cornish pasty came from.....

It is well-known that the Phoenicians and other Eastern Mediterranean peoples used to trade into Cornwall for tin and copper from early times. Similarly, the story of the Silk Road is one long tale of various peoples, religions, cultures, and presumably cuisines passing to and from the Eastern Mediterranean to the borders of China via Persia and what is now Uzbekistan.

So, is our beloved pasty really an ancient Eurasian artefact? Did Genghis Khan ride into battle with pasties slung in his saddlebags?

So, did Cornish cuisine get imported by traders from the Eastern Mediterranean?
I'd be interested to hear if anyone can prove or disprove this.
Bob Bunker, HK (Oct 02)"

Source: : Unfortunately The Lonely Planet web site has been revamped and the Letters/Postcards section has disappeared. In case it returns, we will keep the old URL here, unlinked. These things do get updated from time to time and this letter is six years old now (at 16 Nov. 2008).

(see HERE for a comment from my good friend, Mr Oggy Trelissick)


Since writing the above, I have found another reference (on to the Uzbek pasty where it is called a "samsa"

"samsa: a small pasty filled with meat or vegetables - I had a great spinach one at the Caravan Arts Café in Tashkent"

There is further information HERE ......

Quote from - - Oriental Express Central Asia - a Tashkent-based tourist web site

Samsa & manty. National cuisine of UzbekistanAfter Plov, Manty is the most popular and favorite Uzbek dish. That is why in many regions Manty is served at the end of the meal. In Fergana valley, Samarkand, Tashkent and Bukhara, Manty is one of the major components of ration of local population. In other places, it is prepared less often. Manty is prepared from dough on water basis, which is unrolled in layers by thickness of 4-5 mm and cut in squares of 12õ12 sm. Meat, vegetables or greens can be a stuffing. Manty is cooked on steam during 35-45 minutes in special pot (kaskan). Manty is served with sour milk or with sour cream.

Samsa & black tea. National cuisine of Uzbekistan Samsa is prepared in all areas of Uzbekistan with various forcemeats: meat, pumpkin, greens, etc. Samsa is baked in tandoor oven, and also in gas ovens and electric plates. For samsa, average stiff dough is got mixed, left for 20-30 minutes, then unrolled in plaits and cut on pieces of 10-15 grams. It should not be thicker than 2-2,5 mm. Edges are more thin than the middle. Forcemeat is put in the center, formed in dough and being baked in high temperature. For the dough the following ingredients are required: flour - 25 g, water - 105 g, salt - 6 g; for forcemeat - mutton or beef fillet - 150 g, fat - 35 g, onion- 250 g, caraway - 1 g, salt and pepper."

And that concludes all we have found about the Uzbek pasties .....

Celtic spiral animation