The Ingredient You Cannot Skip When Making Poutine

When eating out in Canada, it's hard to go anywhere without seeing poutine on a menu.

Poutine, a savory comfort food consisting of French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, was first invented as a bar snack in the province of Québec in the 1950s. Since then, the love of poutine has spread nationally and has become widely recognized as Canada's national dish (via Culture Trip). Even McDonald's in Canada serves poutine and Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine.

But there is discourse over who actually invented poutine, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. The first claim is that Fernand Lachance of Café Ideal invented the dish after customer Eddy Lainesse requested he add cheese curds to French fries. Then, after customers complained the fries were too cold with the cheese, he added gravy and the poutine creation was born. 

The competing story involves Jean-Paul Roy, who claims he invented poutine at his former restaurant, Le Roy Jucep, where he had been serving a meal that consisted of fries covered in gravy. When he noticed some customers adding cheese curds on their own, he started making and selling all three ingredients together.

Today, there is heated debate over where to get the best poutine in Canada, but the deciding factor may come down to one thing: the squeak.

Cheese curds will make or break your poutine

There are many factors that go into creating a perfect poutine experience. The gravy needs to be thick and savory — and the fries need to be crisp, holding up against the onslaught of heavy gravy. The most important ingredient to get right, however, may be the cheese curds. Cheese curds are "solid pieces of curdled milk, that can be either eaten alone as a snack," according to Seasons and Suppers, or, of course, "added to fries and gravy to make poutine."

When used for poutine, you ideally want to have fresh, squeaky cheese curds obtained within the 24 hours after manufacturing. This way, the cheese curds do not have to be refrigerated before use. If the cheese is not refrigerated, it preserves a squeakiness that many say make a good poutine great (via The National Post). "As soon as you refrigerate them, they will get more firm and not as squeaky. I love just biting into them and they've got that fresh squeak — then you know that they've just come off the vat," says Elmeda Weber, president of Kitchen Kuttings in Elmira, Ontario, told the outlet.

Poutine, once from humble beginnings, has become an international superstar. From the squeaky cheese curds to crunchy fries, poutine's grip on the snack world doesn't seem to be going anywhere.