¡Hella Hungry! is a column about Bay Area foodmakers, exploring the region's culinary cultures through the mouth of a first-generation local.
Jamaican beef patties are one of those foods you can only truly appreciate if you’ve ever lived outside of the Bay Area. Hefty enough to satiate your stomach, compact enough to grub on while walking to the bus stop and packing enough kick to light up your taste buds, these patties are a quintessentially Caribbean street food that West Coast cities generally lack.
It wasn’t until I migrated to the East Coast, where the Caribbean population is far more sizable than it is in California, that I fell in love with the gold-flaked zing of the Jamaican patty. Similar to an empanada, the patties are warm, spicy, beefed up and — very importantly — affordable enough to buy with whatever dollar bills you have crinkled up in your pockets. Often stuffed with various combinations of meats or veggies, Jamaican patties are a versatile vessel for deliciousness. They got me through my coldest winters in Boston and proved to be a worthy substitute for the street tacos I sorely missed, especially after late-night functions.
Ever since returning to the Bay, I've noticed the lack of Caribbean patties here. I missed them. So you can understand my excitement when I found Tasty Tings, a one-woman pop-up run by Bayview born-and-raised Alyssa Magdaluyo, who was vending the Jamaican baked goods on a sidewalk in Oakland. I immediately stopped what I was doing, crossed the street and ordered a few to take home to my wife, who misses Jamaican beef patties even more than I do.
Magdaluyo, who is a mix of Jamaican, Filipina, Chinese and Creole heritages, uses her food as a way to console herself and others. “I love eating,” she says. “But also I love being able to feed. To be able to share food with others is the most comforting experience.”