What does a Missouri-themed pie taste like? Or a pie representing New Jersey? Stacey Mei That’s what Yang Fong started 50 Pies for 50 States, her project to bake a pie representing each U.S. state, to find out.
Fong started the project in 2016 when she was in the process of obtaining her permanent residency in the U.S. “I was kind of at a weird point in my life, I didn’t know where my home was,” she says of being born in Singapore, growing up in Hong Kong, attending college in Savanna, Georgia, and now living in Brooklyn. Her pies are a dedication to her chosen home, and all of the friends she has made in it. In each baked good, she incorporates local produce and regional cuisines that each state is known for, then gives it to a person she knows from that state.
Her South Dakota pie, for example, takes inspiration from the Native American cuisine that began in the area, and from chef Sean Sherman’s cookbook The Sioux Chef. It starts with a blue corn crust, and incorporates other ingredients like wild rice, sunflower milk, maple sugar, berries, and more. “I don’t think before this I would have even gone to South Dakota, and now I can say that I have been, and I’ve driven through the Badlands, and it was really amazing,” says Fong. “I feel like there’s not enough awareness of Native American cuisine, I’ve heard of none of the recipes that I read in The Sioux Chef,” she explains, giving one of many examples of how this project has opened her eyes to different cuisines, ingredients, and baking techniques. The resulting pie’s crust turns a deep purple, is filled with a rice pudding-like wild rice mixture, is topped with berry compote, and outlined in a mixture of sunflower seeds and pepitas in maple sugar.
“Throughout the years as I’ve baked the pies, the most rewarding part is not the recipe development, it’s not baking the pie,” she says. “It’s giving it to the person I care about and seeing them be like, ‘Oh my god, this reminds me so much of a flavor of home.’”
Check out the video to learn more about Stacey Mei Yang Fong’s project, and see what other pies she’s inspired to make.