|Matthew Wong (left) and Andrew Papas say the meat pie symbolizes what Australia is about. (China Daily/ Feng Yongbin)|
A pair of Australians open up wide to share some favorite grub with Beijingers, and Oz expat Belle Taylor sits down for a chat between bites.
In Australia, every major city, beachside hamlet and country town will almost certainly have three things - a pub, a bakery and a Chinese restaurant. You would be hard pressed to find an Aussie who hadn't enjoyed a plate of jiaozi or a dim sum lunch, but how many Chinese can say they have eaten the great Australian dish, the meat pie?
"You haven't actually been to Australia unless you had a pie there," says Matthew Wong, born and bred in Sydney and now living in Beijing. "It's completely symbolic of what Australia is about."
If you can't make a trip down under, never fear, Wong, along with business partner and fellow ex-Sydney resident Andrew Papas, are bringing some balance to the Sino-Aussie culinary exchange and are introducing China to the joys of a pie.
Their shop, Two Guys and a Pie, has recently opened its doors in Beijing's Sanlitun, giving residents of the capital an opportunity to get a taste of this simple but hearty dish.
An Australian style pie is a pastry with a savory filling, usually beef with gravy, and often accompanied with tomato sauce.
"A pie is just a very humble kind of food," Wong says. "You don't need to make it too fancy, it's what Australia is all about."
This simple approach is reflected in their Beijing shop. It's a tiny space, there is only room for a couple of stools for customers to eat at a counter, and a small warmer for the pies and their close cousin - the sausage roll. The biggest extra Wong and Papas provide is an enthusiastic Australian "g'day".
"You are introducing Australian culture," Wong says of the chatty atmosphere in the shop. "You get a lot of people come in and you get to tell them about Australia and for a lot of people it is their first time eating a pie, so that feels good."
Wong and Papas had both been living and working in Beijing for a number of years before the idea for Two Guys and a Pie came about.
Wong came to Beijing in 2008 to work in marketing at education exchange company IES Global, which is owned by his mother. He continues to work with the company while helping to run Two Guys and a Pie. Papas initially came to China in 2001 to travel and learn Mandarin. He fell in love with the country and wore a number of hats - from English teacher to tour guide - before finding his true calling, he says, as pie ambassador.
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