• Even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a fan. (Audrey Bourget)
It doesn't have to be Poutine Week for you to enjoy this French-Canadian dish.
By
Audrey Bourget

9 Feb 2018 - 10:55 AM  UPDATED 13 Feb 2018 - 12:27 PM

You may have seen “poutine” on some restaurant menus around Australia, but it’s rare that what's on your plate  is really the Québécois dish. For it to be authentic, you need three things: chips, gravy and cheese curds.

Where to eat (real) poutine in Australia

Cheese curds can be hard to find in Australia. There seems to be a misconception that they need to be made with unpasteurised milk, but it’s not the case – pasteurised milk works just fine.

Canadian-born Rob Auger is the co-owner and chef of Mr. Griffiths, in the Melbourne suburb of Kensington. When he opened last year, it was unthinkable for him to put poutine on the menu without the cheese curds. He experimented for months until he found the perfect recipe, just salty and squeaky enough.

“A lot of Australians haven’t tried real poutine, without packet gravy. They don’t know that a cheese curd holds its shape under gravy, that it doesn’t melt to nothing,” tells Auger to SBS Food. On his menu, “The Drummondville” is the traditional poutine: homemade cheese curds, chicken gravy and chips.

Just like in Quebec, variations on the classic are more than welcome. “You need to have the three basic ingredients, but you can build from there and add anything you want,” says Auger.

He makes the very Canadian “Hoser Boy”, which comes with bacon, maple syrup and cracked black pepper and the “Tabarnak”, which is quite impressive with its buttermilk fried chicken, jalapeños, Sriracha sauce and bacon.

Mr. Griffiths also has an extensive beer list, because “poutine is the perfect food for before, during, and after beer”, Auger says.

In Figtree, near Wollongong, Québec native Sébastien Bonenfant, with co-owners Mandy Brooksbank and Alex Denne, has just relaunched Le Montréal Shack as the Canuck Rack Shack. The menu is shorter, but poutine has made the cut.

The classic poutine comes with optional add-ons like maple bacon, pork belly or schnitzel. He gets his curds from a cheesemonger, and like Auger, he says nothing else will do: “You can’t use just any grated cheese. It has to be the curds.”

Just like in Quebec, variations to the classic are more than welcome. “You need to have the three basic ingredients, but you can build from there and add anything you want,” says Auger.

In Brisbane, Sixes and Sevens departs slightly from tradition, but comes close enough with its goat's curd poutine.

 

The little history of poutine

Poutine was created in the 1950s in the French-speaking Canadian province of Québec. The restaurant Le Roy Jucep, in Drummondville, has a registered trademark as the inventor. But two other restaurants, Le Lutin Qui Rit in Warwick and La P’tite Vache, in Princeville, also claim to be the inventors.

For a long time, poutine was looked down upon as a trashy fast-food dish, mostly served in diners and roadside shacks. The only popular variations were the Italian poutine (with bolognese instead of gravy) and galvaude (with added chicken and green peas).

But poutine has won its spurs in the last decade or so. In its home province, nice restaurants are making their own fancy version. Anthony Bourdain’s favourite, Au Pied De Cochon does a poutine with foie gras, while Garde Manger prepares one with lobster.

Since 2012, restaurants around Canada have created special versions of the classic dish for La Poutine Week. It’s often the occasion for interesting cross-cultural mash-ups, like the gnocchi poutine, the taco poutine or the Siam poutine.

 

 

Even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a fan. Over the years, he’s been photographed eating poutine several times and took the Belgian Prime Minister to a “poutine summit” last year.

Can’t make it to one of these restaurants? Try our poutine recipe at home, or try making this Hanukkah poutine.


Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @audreybourget and Instagram @audreybourget.

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Hanukkah poutine

Traditional poutine is a Canadian specialty of French fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy. Kosher poutine is a bit of a challenge, but fear not as I have mastered the art with shredded fresh mozzarella to replace the curds and a parmesan ‘gravy’. This is a great dish for Hannukah, as dairy is customarily eaten on Chanukah to remember the bravery of Yehudit. Note: you may need to take a nap afterwards!

Fries with gravy and cheese curds (poutine)

Poutine is said to have originated in the French-Canadian province of Quebec in 1957 when restaurateur Fernand Lachance was asked by a customer to make a dish combining fries and cheese. He eventually put the well-received dish on his menu and now, with the addition of gravy to help melt the fresh cheese curds, it's an adored snack throughout the country with many variations and even has its own festival.