Battle: Which Tuna Pie Should You Go For This Lent?April 7, 2017
If there’s one thing you can count on to make fasting during Lent feel anything but a sacrifice, it’s the return of local fast food chain Jollibee’s highly coveted tuna pie. The deep-fried, handheld gem has long held a relative monopoly among the cheap, commercialized tuna pie market, but just last month we spotted a new contender bearing a familiar box shape and the same name. Coming from Goldilocks—the bakeshop-chain responsible for many of our favorite breads and pastries—this relative newcomer boasts of a similar tuna-mushroom filling, but is baked instead of fried. Could this be the one to finally throw Jollibee’s off the tuna pie throne?
Jollibee’s Tuna Pie (P45)
Jollibee’s tuna pie is considered a classic and we’ve enjoyed one too many pieces over the years, but for the sake of this battle we’ll go through it as if we were trying it out for the first time. Like the ‘Bee’s other pies, its crust is golden brown with bubbles on the surface from corner to corner. It makes a distinctive crackle as you take a bite, and is both crisp enough that it asserts itself but delicate that it feels light. Part-sweet and part-salty, it carries the savory, “oily” flavor that characterizes deep-fried goods (think of your favorite French Fries or plain doughnuts!) without actually feeling too oily.
Awaiting within is a generous amount of filling, with what we can discern as tuna (not a whole lot, but enough to impart its flavor), canned-type mushrooms, and teensy, slightly sweet bits of minced carrots in a runny sauce that brings to mind canned mushroom soup with a strong peppery note. Most notable is the addition of cheese (of the processed ilk, most likely—not that this is a problem) that melts into the sauce and adds a creaminess that is hard to beat. And while we’re typically sticklers for real food, look—this is fast food stuff and must be treated with respect to its fellow fast food companion. Which is to say: it’s good for what it is. Processed flavors aside, it’s savory, it’s gooey, it’s all sorts of luscious.
Each component stands out in its own right, but are even better together, as the crackly crust makes way to the oozing filling. And while the pie is best eaten hot, it retains much of its original texture even when it cools slightly. There’s not much to complain about, really, save for the fact that it’s only available this time of the year.
Goldilocks’ Tuna Pie (P42)
Goldilocks’ pie is baked, not fried. It follows the format of their other pies (chicken and pork), with a thick crust that feels smooth and shiny across its surface. You are greeted with a peculiar stench that is odd, but not completely unpleasant, as you take it out of its packet.
In direct contrast to the Jollibee’s ultra-crisp contender, Goldilocks’ pie, which is served somewhat warm by default (having sat in the in-store steamer beforehand), takes on a soft consistency which strikes us as moist at best… and soggy at worst. The folded crust on the edges feel tough (we’d liken to softened egg cracklets) and it only gets mushier (loosely resembling moistened bread) as you move toward the center. Slightly sweet but mostly bland, it does not particularly excite us by itself.
But it’s the inside that counts, and you get a salty but tasty amalgamation of what seems to be minced canned-type tuna, potatoes, peas, and (very) occasionally, red bell peppers. (Note that the first few pies we had contained only tuna, potatoes, and canned mushrooms—all of which came dry and off-putting—but the pies we’ve purchased most recently seem to have changed it up and improved immensely.) Their mix has little to no “sauce” (save for being bound with what seems to be a small amount of mayonnaise or cream)—which is completely fine, as the potatoes and peas contribute enough of a satisfying starchiness to make up for it, and you can feel more of the meatiness of the fish.
Together, the slight sweetness of the crust works wonders to balance out the saltiness of the filling. Thing is though, when eaten as it is served by default—e.g. in that somewhat-warm stage—the soft crust easily disintegrates into a floury, mushy paste in the mouth which does not complement the loose filling. Re-toasting it out of its box does little to help, only slightly crisping up the surface but leaving the inner lining (where the crust meets the filling) still as mushy as ever, lest you crack up the temperature REALLY high (which in turn, dries out the filling).
It was mostly by accident that we discovered that this tuna pie actually shines at lower temperatures: at room temp, or even just slightly cold. As ridiculous as it sounds, the bread-y character of the crust together the chunkiness of the filling loosely resembles the sensation you get from a sandwich—a tuna sandwich, minus the piquancy and crunch of celery and onions.
This is not to say this pie is that much worth seeking out—but if you do end up with one of these babies, you might want to either bring out the oven toaster, let it cool, or stick it in the fridge.
Right off the bat, it is clear that the two pies are of completely different species. Jollibee’s fried pies offers the perfect contrast of crisp exterior and creamy interior, while Goldilocks’ baked pies feel much softer with a more substantial filling. And it’s hard (if not arguably futile) to compare two things objectively when they’re of different styles to begin with.
What puts Goldilocks’ pie at a disadvantage is not necessarily the fact that it was baked and destined to be different, but the way that they execute this alternative style. With an end product that is served soft and mushy, their contender just doesn’t offer the crisp, flaky, flavorful crust we associate with good pies in general—be it baked or fried. And while their filling holds its own appeal, it isn’t that much better than the Jollibee’s signature creamy concoction to outweigh our contentions with the crust. With that, our verdict is clear: the grand prize goes to Jollibee. Take our advice: run to your nearest branch now and enjoy this seasonal pie while you can.