May 9th, 2017
Poutine, the Cultural Phenomenon from Quebec that Spread across Canada.
Recently Ottawa, the capital of Canada, had its first Poutine Festival of the warmer months. The fact that there are more to come should demonstrate how much poutine is part of Canadian Culture. We went down and had a quick questionnaire for people working the Chip Trucks to answer.
The first question we asked was what was the most important part of the poutine? Essentially, we're trying to find out in the classic poutine combination of fries, cheese curds and gravy, what was the most important item when eating a poutine. The answers where pretty varied, but with most agreeing that St. Albert cheese curds were the most important part. Going so far as to say that seeing shredded cheese on a poutine would turn them off it outright! Next was the gravy, as it was very important to have a thick gravy but runny enough to cover the fries at the bottom. Finally the fries were also getting some love. Needing to be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside were deemed essential.
In our next survey question we wanted to know what made people enjoy it so much that it has become such a huge part of Canadian Food Culture. We got some pretty awesome responses here. Poutine was originally created in Quebec (late 1950s to early 1960s); Montreal was a huge city in Canada hosting the 1976 Summer Olympics and getting loads of tourists every year; with all the tourists and sports enthusiasts, it allowed many people to eat it and take it [the recipe] back with them. It’s a comfort food and very easy to make; who doesn’t like cheese, fried food (french fries), and gravy? It was a mess at first and it’s become the hot mess we all love.
We also wondered, what pairs best with poutine? What other foods would you eat with it and what would you drink with it? This question garnered some very different results from our survey participants, from beer, ice tea and specifically Coca Cola, to wine, water and milkshakes. Food-wise it was suggested that it paired nicely with club sandwiches, pulled pork or a hotdog, which I think means it kind of goes with everything! This is probably why you see so many different poutine options now. I recently had the "Ducking Awesome poutine" from Twisted Potato. Its fries were deep fried in duck fat then served with shredded duck, cheese curds and gravy. There was also a Pad Thai poutine which I’m dying to try.
Question four on our survey asked, what hasn’t been put on a poutine that could be or should be? With the raging popularity currently with the Unicorn frapp from Starbucks, one survey participant said that if there was a way to make a rainbow unicorn coloured poutine that it would sell like mad. Other suggestions were sushi, the inside of a club sandwich, caviar or plantains, ghost peppers or even marijuana. I also liked other options of chocolate, calamari or octopus, even grilled cheese or Mexican mole.
The last question was for those surveyed to make their own custom poutine, putting whatever they wanted on it. Every single response was different. It’s all up to personal taste which is the whole point of the festival. To bring everyone together and to try new styles of poutine.
What was really cool about the festival itself was the merging of different cultures with poutine. The Green Papaya (Thai) was making different poutines and famous Thai dishes. Another vendor had a Mexican poutine with mole, sour cream, salsa, tomatoes and guacamole. In true Canadian fashion we gave the world poutine and invited other cultures to put their own spin on it. I’ve been a fan of poutine since I was a child, like any other Canadian child growing up specifically in Ontario and Québec. However, one time I went on a trip to Taipei, Taiwan to visit my mother who was teaching English there. I was doing the normal touristy things and about to check out Taipei 101 (the tallest building in the world at the time) and was craving poutine badly. The odds of there being poutine in Taipei had to be next to nothing, right? Well, I turned the corner and low and behold there was a poutine stand in Taipei, Taiwan! I was saved. I ordered one right on the spot. Crispy fries, cheese curds and thick gravy. It was perfect!
Chicken Curry Poutine. Photo taken by Instagram user tashdavey
Smoked Meat Poutine. Photo by Instagram user tashdavey
Pogo Poutine. Photo by Instagram user tashdavey
Polish Sausage Poutine with green onions. Photo by Instagram user tashdavey
The orginal Poutine. Fries, Cheese Curds and Gravy.
The Ragin' Cajun. French Fries, Cheese Curds, Pulled Pork, Gravy, BBQ Sauce and Mac and Cheese. From Sparks Street Poutine fest 2017.
French Fries, Cheese Curds, Lobster Meat, Bacon and Gravy.
Photo by Instagram user floydskitchen.