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Fly away like hot pies


  • Photo: Mariya Pisareva, Sergey Martiahin
  • Text: Vasiliy Avchenko

For two decades, pian-se, a steam pie stuffed with cabbage and meat, has been considered a signature fast food item in Vladivostok.

Pian-se, or Korean steamed pies, are sold from box-shaped thermoses by women wearing noticeable light green aprons. The shade of their uniform aprons is similar to traffic police vests, which is why the latter are jokingly nicknamed “pian-se men”.

Pian-se (a Russian version of an ancient Korean dish) was invented in the early 1980s by ethnic Koreans living in Sakhalin. Spicy, steam-breathing pian-se is a distant relative of the Russian pirozhki (individual-sized baked or fried buns stuffed with a variety of fillings) or pies, Kulebyakas (the Russian savory pies), and Siberian dumplings (meat-filled dumplings). It differs from hot dogs, hamburgers, belyashis (deep-fried cakes made of yeast dough and filled with minced meat) and chebureks (deep-fried turnovers with a filling of ground or minced meat and onions) — not only in the spice, but also in the fact that pian-se is steam cooked, and not fried, which is less harmful to the stomach.

In the early 90’s, pian-se took over Vladivostok. Recently, there are known attempts of people from the Far East trying to organize the production of pian-se in Moscow. Yet, its origin is in the Far East. Here, every town has its own signature recipe.

Vladivostok’s pian-se recipe calls for lots of cabbage and some meat and spices. This recipe is considered a classic, but restless culinary experimenters regularly come up with additions to it. For example, in early 2015, a pian-se recipe with protein was replicated.

Pian-se has replaced the legendary Vladivostok fast food of the Soviet era — pies with whale meat and chebureks with fish. In 2014, there was even an idea to hold a pian-se eating competition in Vladivostok.

Come to Vladivostok!