The Quebec delicacy, poutine, has been introduced to almost every country in the world at this point. Though, there was one country that was still not acquainted with the cheesy, gravy mixture of love: North Korea. But two Quebec men set out to change that.
It was almost a year ago that French Canadians, Etienne Daoust and Nicolas Lemire, headed to Pyongyang, North Korea to make the first poutine in the country.
Both Daoust and Lemire were already well acquainted with North Korea. Daoust himself had travelled there on four different trips and is associated with the East Asia Observatory of UQAM with a specialization on the country.
Daust wanted to create something fun, original and memorable for the people, "Au-delà du dirigeant, la réalité est que, pour moi, ce pays est composé de millions d’humains qui peuvent être vraiment très agréables à côtoyer."
"Beyond the leader, the reality is that for me, this country is made up of millions of people who are really great to be around."
They guys travelled to Pyongyang where they set out to experience things outside of the local tours like renting a speedboat on the Taedong River, seeing the metro stations, and taste-testing pizza through the city. But while that planning was complex, trying to organize a class on making poutine was filled with even more obstacles.
Understandably, they were met with a lot of scepticism from local tour guides, “Every tour guide we asked thought it was so weird.”
But the Koryo Tours company finally accepted and promised to bring Daoust and Lemire to a restaurant to give a poutine cooking class to local chefs. And then the adventure began.
Watch the video below.
While North Korea had most of the ingredients to make poutine like potatoes, gravy, and meat, there was one main ingredient missing, and that was the cheese. Daoust had to travel to Beijing, China on an epic cross country search for cheese curds.
Much to the dismay of Daoust, they couldn’t find French Canadian cheese, but they were able to make do with an American version that had a suspiciously long shelf life.
They returned to Pyongyang, cheese curds nestled safely in a thermos, to begin the project.
They started with a rather rough architectural drawing of the poutine including the layering of a bowl, fries, cheese, bulgogi sauce with duck, and topped with kimchi. The schema was studied intently, phone calls were made, and serious instructions were doled out before the cooking even began.
The biggest hurdle seemed to be the liquidity of the gravy but after a few attempts and the addition of the Korean duck topping, voila! They had poutine.
The local chefs took on the challenge and seemed, while sometimes confused, impressed with the steps. And no different than any other country in the world, they pulled out their cellphones to take pics of the new and strange Quebec cuisine.
While the North Koreans weren’t ready to give up their chopsticks for a fork, they weren’t shy about liking the poutines. And the number of smiles at the end showed that it was a hit.
I thought I had travelled far and wide for poutine. Like most of us, I’ve stood outside La Banquise in minus 40-degree weather, I have made road trips around Quebec dedicated to finding the best casse-croûte, but this?
This a dedication to poutine that we must applaud.