A History Of Poutine, Canada’s National Dish
Image Credit: Poutine | Image Credit: Pixabay

Poutine is a dish that most Canadians have tried at least once in their lifetime. The preparation is an essential staple of Québécois fare and one of the most popular foods in the country. 

What is poutine, you ask? Poutine is a delectable combination of French fries and cheese curds topped with a meat-based gravy or sauce. The cheesy concoction is Canada's national dish and also the most popular menu item in restaurants across the Canadian province of Quebec. To get you up to speed with everything you need to know about this delicious dish, we’ve put together some interesting facts about how poutine came to be, how it changed over time, and why you should try it! 

It is believed that the poutine was first concocted in 1958 by Jean-Paul Roy, the owner of Le Roy Jucep, a restaurant located in Drummondville, Quebec. Although his claim has been contested by several other outlets in the area, most food historians credit Roy with inventing the dish, as he was the first to serve it with gravy, which is considered a key component of the dish. This is also implied in a framed copyright registration certificate that adorns the restaurant's wall. The restaurant is still in business today and sells over 23 different types of poutine. 

The dish was considered a Québécois specialty for the longest time and was rarely served outside the province. This would all change nearly a decade later, when McCain Foods, a Canadian multinational frozen food company, expanded their operations across Canada. The company’s most popular offerings were frozen French fries, which it also sold in institutional packs. Restaurants across the country began buying bags of French fries, which were fairly inexpensive, and serving them at equally economical prices to patrons, which led to the item becoming immensely popular. Restaurants would further capitalize on this success by serving the fries with cheese curds and gravy, thereby popularizing poutine all over the country. 

It wasn't long before the dish saw another chapter. Chefs would start tinkering with the dish’s fundamentals in order to create recipes that would help them stand out from the competition. The changes made were low-effort and low-cost, with restaurants changing the meat used in their gravy or frying the cheese curds. Meats that were popularly used for such substitutions included chicken, pork, and even salted cod. In the late 80s and early 90s, poutine restaurants saw a massive boost in popularity during Quebec’s fast-food invasion. Most restaurants began featuring multiple recipes, different gravies, and cheese curds that were melted or fried. This phenomenon led to poutine establishing itself as a pan-Canadian staple by the late 1990s, but how popular is it now? 

By the mid-2000s, there was another jump in poutine popularity across Canada. Restaurants innovated yet again, serving poutine with meats prepared in different styles, sometimes without the gravy, and cheese curds prepared in a manner to complement the meat, whether fried, melted, or raw. These contemporary iterations of the dish would sometimes go so far as to feature another cuisine; even older establishments like Le Roy Jucep would hop on this bandwagon, serving several Asian-inspired poutines.

The poutine served in most parts of Quebec today is almost a whole other dish owing to this arc. Many believe this is what made the dish so popular, especially amongst the several immigrants that would move into the country over the next decade. Others argue that the dish was always popular and that it just wasn't in the news until there was a good reason. Whatever the case, poutine is still a beloved dish all over Canada today, and you'll be pleased to know that it is one that is extremely easy to concoct. Read on for an Indian-inspired poutine recipe. 

Takeout Butter Chicken Poutine 

    Start by chopping the desired quantity of potatoes into medium-sized batons, leaving the skin on.  

    Place the batons in a colander and rinse under cold water. Follow this by blanching the batons in a pot of water that has been acidified using vinegar (1 tbsp/l). To blanch, bring the mixture to a boil with the batons in the pot, reduce the heat soon after, and let it simmer on low for ten minutes. 

    Drain the water, and let the batons dry on a wire rack for five minutes. After this, deep fry the batons in a 1:8 mixture of canola and sesame oil. 

    Let the batons fry for one minute, and then fish them out and spread them on a wire rack. After thirty minutes, fry for a second time, along with bite-sized pieces of fresh mozzarella and homemade paneer. 

    Season the finished fries immediately with sea salt, then top with a generous serving of your favorite takeout butter chicken and the fried cheese. Serve hot.