• You can almost hear the cheese curd sqeak in this poutine. (The Canuck Truck)Source: The Canuck Truck
Poutine is made with cheese, chips and gravy. But if you want to eat the real deal, it's a bit more complex than that.
By
Audrey Bourget

18 Sep 2020 - 12:06 PM  UPDATED 30 Sep 2020 - 7:01 PM

"We describe it as a big warm hug in a bowl," says The Canuck Truck's Conor Blaney from Perth.

He's talking about poutine.

"It's a lovely dish filled with crispy French fries, squeaky cheese curds, and really rich brown gravy. It's the perfect comfort food for a cold winter day."

In the French-Canadian province of Québec, where poutine hails from, fries vary from one restaurant to another. So does the gravy, though it's usually based on a mix of chicken and beef stock.

PERFECT FOR THE COLDER MONTHS
Poutine

Poutine is a national Canadian dish, made with layers of hot crispy chips, salty cheese curd and delectable gravy.

One thing that doesn't change is featuring fresh cheddar cheese curds, or fromage en grains, which makes a squeaky noise when you bite into them.

"We accept nothing but the squeakiest of cheese curds on our poutines," says Blaney, whose food truck specialises in poutine.

"We describe it as a big warm hug in a bowl."

"Cheese curds are a hard thing to find in Australia, nobody makes cheddar cheese curds in WA so we import them from Wisconsin." 

On the Sunshine Coast, Sandra Cousillas has found a local supplier of cheese curds for her online-only poutine business, Panache.

She says it's important to have the right cheese, but also the right temperature: "The fries and sauce have to be warm, and the cheese curds have to be at room temperature."

You can almost feel the curd squeak in this poutine bowl.

Cousillas grew up in Laval, not far from where poutine was invented in the 1950s.

The legend is that a diner in the Centre-du-Québec region – possibly Le Roy Jucep or Le lutin qui rit (it's contested) – began covering its fries in cheese curds and gravy at the request of a customer.

The famous Le Roy Jucep.

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Poutine has since become the most famous Québec dish, with Canadians around the country claiming it as their national dish, too.

Festivals like La Poutine Week celebrate poutine, encourage restaurants to come up with creative versions. While you can still get classic poutine at a diner, a fast-food chain or an ice rink, more restaurants than ever are now embracing the dish.

Cousillas says, "To tell the truth, poutine is probably the best dish to eat after a big night out. It’s the right amount of naughty, comforting and greasy.

"I have memories of eating it in diners and franchises. A lot of really good restaurants nowadays make their version of poutine.

They'll probably do their own cheese curds and tweak the gravy sauce to do a pepper or Diane or mushroom sauce."

Where to eat poutine in Québec

In Drummondville, situated east of Montréal, you can eat poutine at Le Roy Jucep, where it's said to have all started.

In Montréal, La Banquise and Poutineville are popular with tourists who enjoy the long list of extra toppings, from chopped corn dogs to smoked meat and vegetables.

But if you ask locals, many will send you to Chez Claudette, an old-school diner open late. And if you're after fancy poutine, head to Au Pied de Cochon for the famous foie gras poutine.

"Often, people will ask us why is poutine so popular? It's like asking Australians why meat pies and sausage rolls are popular here. It's pretty much the most iconic dish in Quebec! It's part of our culture, and I'm so happy to know it's becoming part of other cultures and countries too," says Cousillas.

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Where to eat poutine in Australia

While you might have seen poutine on Australian menus before, it's often lacking cheese curds and proper gravy.

Cousillas' French Canadian Panache is offering up their signature DIY poutine kit.

In Perth, Blaney was inspired to launch The Canuck Truck by his Canadian wife, who used to work in a poutinerie (a restaurant specialising in poutine) as a teenager. His best-seller is the poutine covered in smoked ham, bacon and pulled pork.

You can also find poutine at the Limerick Arms Hotel in South Melbourne, Gastown East in Hobart and Bar Luca in Sydney.

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

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