Poutine. The very word can evoke sighs of imagined gastronomic delight or gags of disgust. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, there can be no denying that poutine, perhaps the only truly original dish to have emerged from the kitchens of Quebec is a polarizing culinary force. While some are entranced by its delicious, heavy flavor, others are repulsed by what at first glace seems like a coronary on a plate.
So what exactly is poutine? At it’s most basic and original, poutine is a plate or bowl of french fries, topped with curd cheese and covered with hot gravy. The gravy melts the cheese into a gooey, sticky mess that clings to the fries and the insides of your stomach, filling you up and possibly making your regret your binge a few hours later.
The Popularization Of The Poutine
Poutine has been a staple of the Quebecois diet for almost two decades, but the past ten years have seen a ‘commercialization’ of this ‘national dish’. At first it was picked up by fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Harvey’s, who tried to cash in on the popularity of the late night hangover remedy with younger set. This commoditized poutine lacked some of the character of the home-made version: the fries were thin, the cheese was generic and the gravy wasn’t all that distinguishable from a brown sauce. Over time, other chefs outside the fast-food industry started to add their own creative touches to poutine. Some of the most popular variations included the addition of meat, usually ground beef or smoked meat. Another common version of the dish substituted spaghetti sauce for gravy. An entire micro-industry sprang up around poutine in Quebec, with some restaurants specializing in how weird they could make the already somewhat bizarre food. Everything from hotdogs to coleslaw to a hundred different kinds of cheese have been mixed with fries and gravy and labeled ‘poutine’ on menus across the province. Some classier restaurants even tried to make the poutine upscale and charge an arm and a leg for exotic ingredients like truffles and special imported potatoes.
True To Its Roots
Poutine is often confused with similar kinds of food found mostly in the northern United States. Fries with gravy has been keeping people from Wisconsin to Vermont warm as long as poutine has been around, but for some reason no one outside of Quebec thought to add pungent curd cheese to the mix. Cheese fries, or ‘disco’ fries have been around even longer, ranging from New York to California Tex-Mex variations, but the melted cheeses smothering greasy fries idea was never combined with steaming gravy. Nowadays, poutine has crossed international borders, putting in appearances on menus in Europe and across North America. But for the truly authentic experience, one must return to Quebec.
Where Can I Get Poutine In Montreal?
The short answer is ‘anywhere’. If you want to know where to get GOOD poutine in Montreal, then of course there are a few spots you should check out. For authentic, down home style poutine, Ma-Am-M Bolduc on Lorimier avenue is an excellent choice. You can go for the traditional, or opt for one of the savory variations including turkey, onion and bacon and even vegetarian poutine – for those rare health conscious individuals looking to tackle a thousand-calorie snack. In terms of a quick fix, hit up any of the Lafleur’s hot dog restaurants spread across the city. Their poutine represents the prototype of the Montreal fast food style, and you’ll probably have trouble moving for a little while after you have finished – which is really all you can ask for from a good poutine.