22 March 2010


A speciality in local restaurants at this time of the year, is omelette à la poutine. Poutine is only available for about three weeks of the year - the end of March/early April.

I've tried describing it to friends as whitebait but much much smaller and transparent, but really the fish looks like teeny weeny eels, doesn't it? I have many friends who adore poutine. I've never fanced it myself.

I don't know the English translation for poutine. Perhaps there isn't one? Does anyone know?


  1. They look very alike.
    I would like our poutin was available three weeks in a year...

  2. I don't think I'd like to eat anything that requires me to swallow its eyes. I only know that 'poutine' in Canada refers to some sort of french fry and gravy dish, no eels!

  3. Hummmm c'est délicieux, j'adore ça....mais la poutine, je la consomme surtout en soupe

  4. Jilly

    The origin of the word poutine is a source of some debate. Canadian French dictionary from the end of the 19th century with this definition. Some Quebec natives believe poutine evolved from the Provencal word poutingo, translated as “bad stew”. The word poutine began as Acadian slang for a gooey mess and was first used to name an Acadian dish, poutine rapees - a blend of mashed potatoes, pork, and spicy sauce

    So from the above I would gather the slang translation of
    "gooey mess" and the actual dish changed from France to Canadian French but still remains a "gooey mess"


  5. Est-ce que ces petits poissons sont aussi mangés frits?

  6. Ah, that is interesting, Olivier. I didn't think of it as being used in soup but it makes sense.

  7. Joanny, that is fascinating. Very helpful.

    And spacedlaw, I don't know if they are eaten fried. I've only seen them eaten in an omelette. They seem so small they'd disappear if battered and fried but perhaps not? Whitebait, which is so much bigger - that of course is eaten fried.

  8. Joanny, I also meant to say I love that translation of gooey mess! Thanks.

  9. Thanks so much to Ann who sent me this by email...

    Poutine are very young fish fry. The type varies according to season but the most usual are anchovies or sardines. Can be cooked in a loose mix with olive oil and garlic, or used in omelette or soups.
    Poutine is a word used in Provence to mean Neo-natal.
    Poutine is also a famous French Canadian dish of chips, cheese and gravy !!!! Here the word "poutine" is used as slang for "a mess"

  10. Oh, Jilly, I'm looking at this before 7 A.M. and my stomach is not feeling very happy.

  11. I love the up close look at a bunch of tiny eyes peering out of the bowl!

  12. Thanks for all the comments and private emails on this. Laura wrote that poutine are perhaps what is called in English smelts:

    Poutine are very young fish fry about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) long, and so young they're still transparent enough that you can see their insides.

    What types of fish are served as "poutine" varies by breeding season for the fish, and by locale.

    Of saltwater fish, anchovies and sardines are now the most common in the mix called poutine. It can also be freshwater fish from rivers.

    It used to include small mackeral from the North Atlantic, but now it's against the law to catch, sell or eat them when so young.

    Some people argue that in this day and age, catching any fish so young is a good way to deplete the fisheries.

    Poutin are usually fried up in some kind of mixture, either a loose mixture with oil, garlic, onion and already-cooked potato, and tossing the fish in as is, whole, or in an omelette.

    They can also be included in soups.

    They only need a cooking time of about 5 minutes

    ( http://www.whatscookingcanada.com/edible.nsf/pages/poutine#ixzz0iu8Pfwne

    and John wrote...

    The Canadian version of this started in Quebec. It is now sold most everywhere here and is usually served as a topping for french fries. It looks so gross and fatty that I have never tried it.

    I can't believe that it would be available in France in the Canadian form. :-(

    Here is a good link to its history:


    Thanks Laura and John.

  13. Hi Jilly - I like (really like) sushi! But these "fish" look more like bait! As one of the others said "I couldn't eat something that's looking at me." :-)

    Thanks VERY much for sharing!

    Ken B.

  14. I'd definitely try poutine if given a chance, I love small fish fry.

    I found all the above comments absolutely fascinating, especially the gooey mess dish evolution from Provence to Canada!

  15. I remember them from Spain, but forgot the name. They sell them fried. I heard it's illegal there as they are fish babies...
    Barbara from Germany

  16. Jilly,
    I wish I were more adventurous, but I can't go there. ( The eyes!) But I'll tell you someone who would try this in a "Paris Minute"......Peter the Divine. I'll put money on it. He'll try anything! HA

  17. Jilly, this is interesting because I was just introduced to something simiar in New Zealand. I'll have to doublecheck that again so see the similarities. Although I don't think I'd jump at the chance to try it.

  18. Well, intellectually I am glad to learn this very new to me thing.
    But forgive me if my gut reaction was "Eeuw, gross!" :)

  19. Jilly, I learned so much from your commenters and you about the versions of this dish and the word poutine's origins. I've heard the expression, "We're going to fry up a mess of fish." This makes me think about the phrase :-). I will eat tobiko, but not this, I think.

  20. Thanks so much for Brady for this - sent by email:

    Ironically I'm in Canada and this is a Canadian food info web site I'm pointing you to.

    That site has etymology for the word too! (apparently it's from Provençal) - http://www.whatscookingcanada.com/edible.nsf/pages/poutine

    Ironically in French speaking Canada and parts of the east coast, northeastern US and most of Ontario 'poutine' means a dish of french fries, cheese curds and gravy. It's actually quite popular and it's fantastic. The etymology of that use of the term, according to Wikipedia, is based on what my girlfriend thinks might be a local French dialect in regional Quebec (she's a Francophone but comes from Ontario). One claimed inventor was a guy named Fernand Lachance and Wikipedia says: "Lachance is said to have exclaimed ça va faire une maudite poutine ("it will make a damn mess"), hence the name. The sauce was allegedly added later, to keep the fries warm longer."

  21. Umm, no thanks. (shudder) I'm just not that brave although my 4 young children & husband may be. They eat just about anything (including my cooking).

  22. Nothing would induce me to try this, and I like trying new things. But the French Canadian dish, oui!


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