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Tasty Tings Is an Underground Jamaican Patty Party in the Bay

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A colorful spread of Jamaican beef patties on a table
A colorful spread of Tasty Tings' Jamaican beef patties. (Elliott Alexander)

¡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.

The owner of Tasty Tings poses in front of a sign for her Jamaican food pop up.
Alyssa Magdaluyo poses at a food pop-up event. (Courtesy of Tasty Tings)

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.”

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Here’s what the 28-year-old had to say about her Frisco flavors — served with a dash of Caribbean fire.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Alan Chazaro: You’re a full-time food hustler. How did you get into foodmaking?

Alyssa Magdaluyo: I just love cooking. I’m the youngest of three siblings. By the time I was born my mom was over cooking. It was always make-your-own-dinner night. The fridge was always stocked, so that was an entryway into cooking. Growing up, I’ve always wanted [to own] a bakery or restaurant or to be a food columnist, but living in San Francisco is hella expensive to eat out all the time. Cooking became a survival thing and a way to eat food I can’t afford.

Why did you start Tasty Tings?

I wanted to hit up Jamaica, the motherland — but then COVID happened. I hit up the Philippines before that though. I also visited New Orleans since I’m Creole. Since I couldn’t go to Jamaica, I started experimenting more with patties, and I put it on social media. People just wanted to keep eating my food. This is my third official year since shelter in place. Every year I’m just surprised. I think I’ll have to get a job serving again, but my people and my community have always held me and supported me. Like damn, I make really good food, and I hold it to the standards of any job I’ve ever had.

Tell us about the Jamaican-style patties you serve.

It’s like an empanada. I do a lentil one — lentils stewed in coconut cream and garlic. You can tell I’m Filipino because of all the garlic (laughs). I love the mushroom, too. It’s spicy jerk mushroom and bell peppers. Sometimes I be making it a little too spicy ‘cause the marinade gets absorbed into the dough (laughs). The beef and cheese are really popular. I like cheese, so I’m always trying to add more cheese. The shrimp one is really fire — jerk shrimp with cheese. It has caramelized leeks and bell peppers. And curry chicken was my other favorite.

Every year I try to do another [flavor] and perfect it. I usually do a sweet one for fun — coconut condensed milk and bananas. I wanna do a plantain one, a spicy one. But it would be hella dense. I’m trying to mix it up this year. October is Filipino Heritage Month, and I do try to do Filipino flavors, like longaniza. It’s longaniza pork in spicy papaya salad with an egg. It’s difficult putting that together.

A Jamaican beef patty on a wooden table
A classic Jamaican beef patty from Tasty Tings. (Elliott Alexander)

What’s your process for making a batch of patties?

I have a prep station at my house. It’s in my living room. It’s all super small-batch. I can probably yield 150 max. I usually just get everything from the store — Mandela or Berkeley Bowl, they have all those special seasonings. I used the smoked salt for the chicken and the jerk because it gives it that flavor since I can’t barbecue mushrooms. Jerk is like Jamaican-style barbecue, basically. I’m trying to infuse those flavors without actually grilling. I just be going crazy looking at patties after that (laughs).

You proudly grew up in San Francisco. How does that influence your approach?

I went to school in Pac Heights, and all my classmates were Chinese. And I lived in Bayview where all my neighbors were Black. They each saw me as the other. I just rolled with it. I lived on a hill, right in the middle, so I just created a balance. Took what I liked and kept it pushing.

Being from the city and watching it change all the time, especially from living in Bayview, you see it all change, and it’s disheartening. Police corruption, community issues. I like to walk down 24th Street to remember I live here, I’m from here. That’s a mental health walk for me. I’m so grateful. SF breaks my heart so much, but I still love it. It’s like a relationship. I ride so hard for being on this land, but it’s disheartening when it doesn’t want to push you forward also.

You often collaborate with local artists, including Family Not A Group, the San Francisco collective. What’s your connection to them?

I fucking love FNG. Shout out to all 17 of y’all. I honestly have a personal relationship with everyone in FNG. Just from being raised in this city. The artist hub [in San Francisco] is so small. It makes sense for us to use our platforms to help each other. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without having the support of my community. It’s a beautiful space to be a part of. I’ve known DJ Jenset since we were 15. Mike Evans and Baghead I knew from when we were in the Mario Woods Coalition together. I love being around them. Seeing them all together is even better because we’ve shared experiences together. FNG reminds me that we exist.

What’s the Mario Woods Coalition?

It was a grip of people combating police brutality. We had meetings and set up protest dates. Being in that space helped me. I didn’t really have a group of friends in my community until I went to those meetings. Thank god I wasn’t the only one worrying about this. I was happy I found a safe space where we were trying to do something about it and not just being terrorized.

What’s one thing about San Francisco you think outsiders might not understand?

It’s pushed out so many people. [But] the community is what makes it beautiful. It’s not Lands End hype. [That’s] so fake. This isn’t what people are here for. They want the art, the music, the community leaders, the muralists.

I honestly got evicted out of my family home five years ago, and I came to Oakland. I didn’t think I would enjoy it… well that’s not true. I just love my home [in SF]. But I’ve learned about a new community, and Oakland holds it down. I’m eternally grateful to stay in the Bay. But I love my home and being able to feed you guys and go to all these cool shows.

Do you have any favorite beef patty hideouts in the Bay Area besides your own?

I honestly haven’t had many beef patties in the Bay. Peaches Patties — she was at Outside Lands. Those are freakin’ good. I honestly went to New York and did some research and development (laughs). There’s this one in New York, I wish i could tell you where it was, a Senegalese spot; they make these curry goat patties. So good. But I’m not handling goat. That’s just next level.

What are the realities of operating a pop-up food business in the Bay?

Just trying to find a balance between handling and saving my mental health and physical health and not burning out — having better boundaries. I can’t overextend myself and make 250 patties to sell out. I’m staying in my lane of 100 to 50 small-batch [so I can] have a real connection with the people I’m vending to rather than having only a transactional moment. I didn’t start it for that. This was a passion project to share comfort with friends and my community [during the pandemic], and it extended to a lot of people who needed food vendors. I think of it not like a capitalistic transaction but an energy exchange. I’ll nourish you, and you help me nourish myself.

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Follow Tasty Tings on Instagram for announcements on pop-up events and locations around the Bay Area. Catering is also available; send inquiries to tastytings@gmail.com.

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