Poutine goes to India, Indian poutine comes to Canada

Poutine is a Quebecois delicacy made by combining french fries, gravy and cheese curds; when I was growing up, poutine was strictly Canadian, and you could always amaze foreigners by describing the salty, fatty, starchy goodness to be had from the poutine trucks. But gradually, poutine spread across the world -- first I saw it for sale in LA's Sunset Junction, and then I found it on the menu at a cafe in Mumbai's Juhu Beach (optional toppings included corn, pineapple and chicken frankfurters!). Poutine in India! What could be more global?

Turns out that the poutine-subcontinent fusion is bi-directional: yesterday, in Burger Bar in Toronto's Kensington Market, I spotted "Saag Poutine" on the menu -- "paneer cheese simmered in spices, cream and spinach, served over fries." I don't know what unlikely magic has brought Indian food and Quebecois food together, but it is magic -- albeit of the high-carb, salty sort.


  1. I was over at a friend/customer’s house in Montreal to look at some equipmenet – he was from Bombay. After a while, he offered me some vegetables pakoras, including onions bhajis. I’m always up for bhajii!

    He handed over a bottle of tomato ketchup, saying “The kids love the ketchup on bhajiis.” I answered: “Hand me the mango chutney, you barbarian!”

    That saag poutine sounds delicious!

    1. Many years ago, we took a bunch of friends to our local hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant after church. One of the younger kids was saying she wanted ketchup on her fried thing, and her parent told her “This is green ketchup. And this is brown ketchup. Want some brown ketchup on it?” Worked just fine…

      Saag paneer is already one of the world’s most wonderful foods. Putting it on fries to call it poutine? Nom nom nom!

  2. I don’t normally like heavy savory foods, especially fried and salty ones… but that saag poutine sounds pretty tasty!

  3. Now you can even get butter chicken poutine at New York Fries (a chain found in most malls in the land of the Harper Government).

    And burger bar is ok, but if you want another burger while you’re in town, you’ve gotta try Craft Burger. The Craft Blue is the greatest burger of all time.

  4. Two Doors South (when it existed) had Indian Poutine – veggie paneer and masala sauce over fries, or non veg – butter chicken on fries.

    so delish. So sad it’s gone.

  5. Yum. I love Saag Paneer, and serving it over fries sounds decadent. We just left TO and moved to Florida; missing Toronto already, and this doesn’t help. I never found my ‘favorite’ poutine in 3+ years there, but that was probably for the best – I would have eaten it too often.

  6. There’s a great Butter Chicken Poutine at The Local on Roncesvalles in Toronto. That’s my sort of fusion.

  7. Once I discovered poutine (I grew up in Buffalo, which is on the border with Canada) as a teenager – in Canada – I was surprised it hadn’t made it over the border. We’ve got Tim Hortons, and lots of other Canadian influences. Lots of Canadians visit frequently – if you go to one of the malls on the right day, easily half of the cars will have Ontario plates.

    Buffalo cuisine (if you can call it that) is on the fatty side, and lots of people from Buffalo go to Canada frequently, but few know about poutine.

    Of course, the first time I had it served to me by some Canadian friends I was first amazed, then disgusted… I love fries and I love cheese, but I guess it was the gravy that put it over the top for me :)

    These Indian variations sound a lot better, actually. If I saw that on a menu in India I probably wouldn’t be able to resist ordering, especially since anyone I might be with probably wouldn’t know what it was :)

    1. As a displaced Canadian, I tried on several occasions to introduce poutine to Chicago. You’d think it’d be a no-brainer: Chicagoans love cheese on fries, they love gravy on things, and Illinois is right next to the US’ strategic reserve of cheese curds (Wisconsin). I think it has something to do with putting gravy on fries- Americans have difficulty getting their heads around this, while it is as natural for Canadians as maple syrup on bacon.

      At one point, friends of mine did develop a “Southern-style Poutine,” using the white sausage gravy you would normally put on biscuits. It was fantastic, but you needed to serve it with a side of Lipitor.

      1. I’ve heard this many a time – the gravy bends their brains. I don’t get it! You put gravy on mashed potatoes, no?

        Gravy + potato = yum. Gravy + potato + cheese = OM NOM. The formula for tasty.

        It almost – ALMOST – makes up for Celine. I’m watching you, Québec.

  8. Here in San Diego, we have Carne Asada Fries, which is seasoned steak steak piled on top of french fries, and then covered in guacamole and sour cream. I once read somewhere that somebody described it as ‘Mexican Poutine’, although Border Gringo/Mexican Poutine would probably be more accurate.

  9. Poo-TIHN? Poo-TEEN? Putin?

    The only Canadian I know calls is poo-TINE, but he’s Calgarian…

  10. It’s funny. I first heard of poutine from an Indian friend from the University of Oregon.

    He told me that it was originally an East Indian dish, created soon after potatoes were introduced to India a couple of hundred years ago by East Indians, but based on an older dish – the potato fries simply taking the place of this other tuber. He said the East Indian company introduced poutine to Canada and the French fur traders made it their own. In fact, he said what we know of French fries were created by East Indians, then co-opted by British who called them chips.

    (He also said the British fish n’ chips was also invented by early East Indian immigrants to Britain, from the region that is now known as Pakistan.)

    This has also been mentioned to me a couple of more times in the 15 years since I graduated. It is possible my friend had poutine in India and assumed it was originally Indian but I have heard it mentioned a few times.

    Or it could be like how Pavel Chekov in Star Trek claiming everything, including the phone, automobile, aeroplane and indoor plumbing were indented by Russians. Er…I mean invented.

    1. I think your last assumption is correct. Fries are Belgian and poutine is Québécoise. Indian food is awesome and they don’t need to pad it out by poaching other delicacies. The French may have given the world haute cuisine but the other Francophone regions of the world have given us some wonderfully unhealthy fare.

    2. I think the idea of cutting potatoes into strips and deep frying them could have been ‘invented’ all kinds of people completely independently.

      I mean given Newton and Leibniz came up with the calculus at the same sort of time…

      Though if anyone’s going to win this accolade, I’m rooting for the Indians.

      1. Yes – many things could have been developed independently. Ancient Peruvians, Romans and various African cultures had pasta – yet we give credit to the Chinese via Marco Polo for pasta.

        Also – pizza. Credit has been given to New York Italians, yet the Romans, and every culture that has had bread has had a flat bread baked with toppings. We’ll never know, but the Neanderthals, or some other ancient group may have very well had the compass – you know – the Bear Grills, Survivor Man, or Gilligan’s Island animated series type of compass. The Chinese south-pointer was just more well known, more permanent and better made.

        The various South American civilizations did have the wheel, but didn’t make the same use of it as Europeans – but they might have had the manned kite, or hot-air balloons. The Ancient Chinese may have also had flying contraptions. It’s not beyond the realm of imagination that Larry the Cro-Magnion had a glider – if Gilligan and the Professor could make one, why not Larry? A lot of technology use is the right–place–right-time thing.

        (BTW, ‘right–place–right-time’ is a direct calque translation of a Chinese expression.)

    3. I strongly doubt that poutine was originally invented in India. Firstly, the potato is a South American plant that was introduced into Europe in the 16th century but, according to Wikipedia, didn’t become widespread in India until the late 18th century. Second, poutine is a simple dish from rural Quebec, and the cultural contacts between India and Quebec were virtually nonexistent until recently. Since poutine is so simple, and since the people of Quebec have been using potatoes, cheese, and gravy for four centuries, I don’t think you need to postulate a highly unlikely cultural connection to explain its origins.

  11. will the next novel involve unionized scientologists and space poutine? i am intrigued.

      1. i don’t know what that means, or if it means what i think it says, all i knows is it is a serendipitous response as it makes me think of peanut butter. peter pan peanut butter. and how peanut butter is awesome. and how it is even more awesome on my plate, on my plate as gado gado, an indonesian dish, so you see were this is going. yes, gado gado poutine–the future of poutine fusion cuisine! bringing the peanut and the potato together in a bowl of awesome. i don’t have a picture yet, but i know a restaurant has to be reading this right now, one that is trying to capture the edge on the poutine market. so just wait a bit for them to grasp the importance of this moment, and then the picture will be available.

  12. It’s almost as if Canada, being a Commonwealth nation and former british colony would have some sort of large community of immigrants from another Commonwealth nation and former British colony that may possibly make an effort to combine local food with their own.

    Say, India.

    India might be an example of this.

  13. <1>Poutine is a Quebecois delicacy made by combining french fries, gravy and cheese curds

    It doesn’t sound very delicate.

    1. Delicate might be the wrong word – but I’m open for it being delicious. :)
      (The closest I’ve been personally are the Dutch/Belgian(?) Vlaamse Frites – chunky french fries with sauce bernaise. It’s excellent, though as elegant and healthy as butter on a stick.)

      On a very related note, I wonder if I can get a decent poutine anywhere in western europe?

      1. Loved that combo when I was working in Belgium, in the French-speaking part. But then, come on, homemade Bearnaise sauce…I could eat rusty nails covered with that stuff!

        Saag paneer over french fries is sheer genius. Poutine never excited me, but this is a combo worth the health risk.

  14. See we have pretty much the same dish over here in the Isle of Man, we just call it ‘Chips, Cheese and Gravy.’

    Minor differences being we use British style chips, rather than French Fries. Grated cheddar cheese instead of cheese curds. I don’t imagine the gravy being that much different.


      1. You can get a damn good curry and chips from most Indian places in the UK too, if you’re in the mood for ‘Indian poutine’. Or donner and chips from the kebab shops, come to think of it…

        We’re pretty good at food that’ll give you a heart attack, just not so great on the naming aspect, it appears!

        1. You can get a damn good curry and chips from most Indian places in the UK too, if you’re in the mood for ‘Indian poutine

          Interesting. My wife’s sister, who studied in Ireland, raves about the chips with chilli sauce from “Supermacs”, which is the local McD ripoff.

      2. The thing is that it’s not even a particularly British thing, if you go into a British chip shop they will give you funny looks if they order it. Yet go into a Manx (People from the Isle of Man) chip shop it’s pretty much what everyone has.

    1. But the cheese curds is the key difference. Cheese-fries and gravy? Meh. Fries + curds + gravy? Squeaky and delicious.

      I now live in the Land of Poutine and will venture out and score some.

  15. They have a similar style of dish in New Jersey. I went there to visit a girl and she told me of something they called “Disco Fries.” I had no clue as to what that was so upon ordering it at a diner I saw what my Canadian friend had once called poutine. Apparently they’ve had it in northern Jersey for ages. I guess its just a good idea that will eventually spread around the world… and then cause heart attacks.

  16. Never understood poutine. I like neither gravy nor cheese on my fries, adding them both is just a great reason to leave the dish alone. Saap poutine actually sounds somewhat edible, though

  17. There’s a place near my house here in Montreal called Chef Guru, it’s a pretty great little Indian food joint, and they make a curry poutine which replaces the gravy with an awesome yellow curry sauce, and somehow makes the whole thing better by, I believe, double-battering the fries. IT IS AMAZING. And I was thinking about what I was gonna eat right before I read this.

    1. Whoops. Too quick on the post. In montreal, I was sating, try “Paulo et Suzanne ” for yummy poutine delight.

  18. i admit im hungry right now, but i always fantasized about poutine… And now with a curry twist? OM NOM indeed!

  19. Last year I made tater tots with saag paneer as a dipping sauce. I called it trailer park samosas.

  20. Hey Cory, have you seen the menu at New York Fries, a ubiquitous Canadian fast food joint? Butter chicken poutine! It’s now a mass market phenomenon.


    (I’m partial to Smokes Poutinerie on Adelaide St. West in Toronto.)

  21. The Google Image Search results for poutine make me queasy.

    Not sure if that’s due to the fries swimming in brown gravy, or the occasional random photo of Vladimir Poutine.

  22. Actually, it was in the Indian South that DEEP FRYING was practiced wayyy before other cultures discovered it independently.

    The reason was wide and easy availability of oil rich vegetable matter like Dried coconuts (chopra), mustard seeds, etc.

    While Europeans were roasting and frying with animal fat and free flowing oil wasn’t known till the industrial ages, the south indians had huge clay pans and pots of hot oil that automatically lent itself to deep frying.

    Thats why Vadas, Samosas, Murukkus and what not are made from dough to be deep fried in oil.

    Don’t know who invented french fries, but the south indians were frying whatever veggies they could lay their hands on.

  23. Here’s an important tip for Americans (or anybody else unfamiliar with the dish): If you order “poutine” anywhere in the world and are served something topped with shredded cheese or, worse yet, cheese sauce instead of the proper cheese curds, please report this atrocity to the Ministère de la Préservation du Poutine. This agency of the Québec provincial — sorry, national — government will immediately dispatch a team of black helicopters to deal with the offending party.

    1. Small clarification, it is the :”…Ministère pour la Préservation de la Poutine”

      As you may be aware, things have gender in French. Poutine is a “feminine” word….

  24. Saag poutine sounds like heaven to me. One of the Nepali restaurants here in MPLS serves a “7-layer samosa” (I forgot what they call it exactly), basically a large samosa, cut up, with a whole bunch of different chutneys and stuff on it. It’s a meal in itself!

  25. You simply CANNOT use the word “delicacy” to describe Poutine. Caviar is a delicacy. Poutine is more on the order of a WWF smackdown in your tum tum.

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