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Miami's Five Best Jamaican Patties: The Power of a Proper Pastry

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Throughout history humankind has focused on what divides us. Wars have been waged over skin color, land and religion. Despite these differences people from Latin America to Asia all stumbled upon the idea of putting seasoned some meat or vegetables inside a tasty crust and serving them at all hours of the day.

One could argue that in Miami the empanada is the standard bearer for savory pastries. Yet you can also find samosas, a fragrant Indian pastry stuffed with meat or curried vegetables and either baked or fried. Our Jewish friends offer the knish, most commonly filled with potato but sometimes meat. Yet large Jamaican populations in South Florida, particularly in the northern part of Miami-Dade as well as Broward, brought us the patty.

We're happy to take down half a dozen spicy patties for lunch, but recognize all patties aren't created equally. You might have seen them as limp, unnaturally yellow things sitting under a gas station heat lamp. Yet the real thing is far different than the frozen, reheated hockey pucks.

Using fresh ingredients, and frying patties to order is key, said Lara Peterson, manager of Sonia's Patties in Kendall.

"Everyone makes it a little different traditionally they are more orange-ish," she said. "That's more food coloring than anything." The most common patty filling is spicy ground beef, yet everything from curried chicken and lobster to plantain to ackee, a Jamaican fruit similar to scrambled eggs can be tucked inside what should be a tender, flaky crust made with Crisco instead of butter.

5. Jamaica Kitchen
In the corner of a Sunset Drive strip mall Jamaica Kitchen has been a mainstay for Chinese-Jamaican food since the mid 1980s. Here patties are made according to a Jamaica Kitchen recipe in a factory that the Chin family, who own the restaurant, once owned. Patty options include mild and spicy beef, curry and jerk chicken, and callaloo, made from a stewed leafy vegetable combined with saltfish, tomatoes, onion, scallion and scotch bonnet peppers.

4. Marie Patties Inc.
In Palmetto Bay, not too far from ZooMiami, Marie Patties specializes in the spicy beef patty. They're made and baked in house and come in that unmistakable yellow-orange crust. The red dot on a patty signifies that it's spicy. Dozens continually emerge on trays from a back room only to fly out the door singly or by the dozen. We suggest you grab a Ting, a Jamaican grapefruit soda, to cool down if things get too hot.

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3. The Patty Place
This 300-square-foot take-out joint took the award for Best Jamaican Patty in 2008 and hasn't let up since. You know it's true because on most days they're sold out by the early evening. You'll never pay more than $1.50 per patty and choices range from corned beef to ackee to callaloo.

2. Hammond's Bakery
On the outskirts of a barren dead zone created by Dolphin Stadium sits Wayne Hammond's bakery. Here you won't find any of those greasy bright yellow things gas stations try to pass off as real food. Hammond's took the award in 2012 for the best patty in town. They even offer a vegetarian callaloo patty we said was "downright healthy." Yet if you're going to come to this part of town to do something other than watch Dolphins owner Stephen Ross burn stacks of money we suggest you grab a dozen beef patties for $18.

1. Sonia's Patties
When you walk into Sonia's Patties you see two things: The first is usually a group of people waiting around for their order. The second is an impatient person wincing in pain after biting into a searing hot patty fresh out of the fryer. Choices here are simply mild and spicy beef and curry chicken. Patties are fried to order, so be patient and don't burn yourself. If you're lucky you'll go on a day when they're selling curry lobster patties for $5.99.

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