What: It was while searching for oysters back in the late 1800s that the first sizable discovery of scallops was made in Hobart, in the cold waters of the adjacent River Derwent. The evolution of the simple scallop into Tasmania’s famous curried scallop pie is not well documented, but we do know two things: 1) Aussies loves their savory pies, and 2) everything tastes better dunked in Mornay, sprinkled with curry powder, wrapped in fluffy pastry, and baked until golden…right?
For the savory curried scallop pie, then, there are two things on which you cannot compromise: the scallops and the curry. For the best possible flavor, the scallops should be the pecten fumatus variety, or “Tasmanian scallop,” as they’re more commonly known. As for the curry, there’s an interesting story behind this pie’s use of curry powder that may help explain its origins. Around the same time that scallops were becoming a local delicacy, a chap by the name of Joseph Keen arrived in Tasmania. A baker by trade, he also dabbled in the creation of condiments and sauces, culminating in a prize-winning mustard powder simply known as “Keen’s Curry Powder.” For a tiny island a long way from the subcontinent, this was big news—and after that it was inevitable someone would discover the ingenious combination of scallops with this fantastic curry powder!
Good to know: Fresh scallops always make for better taste, so if possible try to eat ’em between Easter and late July; otherwise, it’s far likelier that the scallops in the pie will either be frozen or imported from Victoria on mainland Australia. In fact, seasonality of the scallops will play a big role in the availability of this pie in and around Hobart. For much of the year there’s a good chance you’ll find it only at bakeries in town, with cafes and restaurants generally offering it exclusively during the scallop season.
Where: A popular venue, year-round, for this dish is the Richmond Bakery (6/50 Bridge St., map) in Richmond, a quaint little Georgian village surrounded by vineyards and with a rich convict-station history, about 25 minutes from Hobart by car. It’s a hopping place on weekend mornings, as it’s the destination of choice for many of Hobart’s cyclists. If there’s a queue, fear not: You won’t be waiting long.
When: Daily, 7:30am-5:00pm
Order: Curried scallop pies go for AU$8, whether you are dining in or taking away. Here the baked, flaky pie boasts a perfectly golden-browned cap and a creamy curry filling with scallops. It’s such a lovely place that we recommend you dine in and relax in the old stone courtyard. And consider staying on for one of the delicate little raspberry tarts, for dessert.
Alternatively: Jackman and McRoss (57 Hampden Rd., map)—located in Hobart’s most beautiful and upmarket seaside suburb, Battery Point, just a short walk from both central Hobart and the wharves in buzzing Salamanca—has a curried scallop pie endorsed by many as the best in Tasmania. If you happen to visit at Easter you could also try one of Australia’s finest hot cross buns. It’s unbelievable how many fruits and nuts they can cram into one of those!
Further afield, a 20-minute drive south of Hobart down “The Channel” will bring you to Leslie Vale, home of the Bush Bakery (682 Leslie Rd., map). They may be small, but its scallop pies (and other baked goods) are renowned across southern Tasmania as being some of the best. It makes a fabulous morning tea break on a road trip down into the beautiful Huon Valley.
Photo courtesy of Richmond Bakery