We’re nearing Christmas, that time of year when many Canadians start rolling out pastry and mixing up spices for tourtiere. So far I’ve only seen this meat pie once in Richmond – at the Sweet Spot – but recently I came across another French Canadian classic – POUTINE! It was at an HK cafe, of all places.
I am a big, big, BIG fan of la poutine. I used to be indifferent to the stuff, but a few years ago I tried a version with pork hock in the gravy. I succumbed, fully and passionately, to this heart attack-inducing meal. It’s a salty, carby, cheesy, savoury, satisfying, shareable dish that’s great with beer, and ideal in winter.
I never come across poutine in Richmond, so the moment I spotted it on the menu at Kingspark restaurant I knew I had to order it. Not because I thought it would be all that good, but because I was curious. Curious as to how a Hong Kong-style restaurant would interpret this quintessential French Canadian dish. Here’s how:
The poutine ($5.99) came in a casserole dish, with fries that tasted startlingly familiar, a bunch of melted white cheese, and a ladleful of dark, salty gravy poured into the center.
First and foremost, the big difference between an ‘imitation’ poutine and an ‘authentic’ poutine is the presence of real cheese curds – those squeaky white wonders that melt a bit but still hold their shape. Kingspark didn’t use curds, just some kind of mozzarella-like cheese, and though it wasn’t nearly as good, it didn’t taste bad. The gravy was strong and rich, and while it took me a while to figure out what the fries reminded me of, I eventually realized they tasted JUST like the fries at McDonald’s. I haven’t eaten there in years, but one never forgets the flavours of a childhood Happy Meal.
In addition to the poutine, I ordered a bowl of their choose-your-own-soup ($7.99, Cattle Café style), with satay broth, egg noodles, enoki mushrooms, and bean curd skin. I asked for pumpkin to be added at extra cost, but it didn’t find its way in there. Nevertheless, it was a very good vegetarian bowl of soup, with plenty of fillings and especially good bean curd skin – I love that stuff!
I also drank a half-sweet, iced HK-style tea, which came in a metal beer stein.
In terms of atmosphere and décor, Kingspark lies somewhere between Flo Team Room and La Amigo, and was busy during dinner. I’d read online their service isn’t great, but I didn’t find it all that different from most other HK restaurants I’ve been to (meaning it was efficient, and not terribly friendly).
Thanks to this meal, I’m now craving poutine most hours of the day, and hope there are more options in Richmond. Anyone know of a pub that serves it? Please send any and all curd-covered suggestions my way!
Also, today I’d like to share this recipe, which I haven’t had a chance to make this holiday season BUT WILL BE SOON. It’s from one of my favourite blogs (Smitten Kitchen), features one of my favourite spices (smoked paprika), and the result is one of my favourite all-time snacks (spiced nuts). My only advice is to make many, or hide them, because these things go quickly.
Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts
Adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country
1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I might up this by a 1/2 tsp. next time for more of a sweet/salty balance)
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper (I swapped this with 1/4 teaspoon of hot smoked paprika)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound walnut or pecan halves or whole peeled hazelnuts
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add walnuts, and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.
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Debit and cash accepted
Vegetarian options available