THE HALAL SNACK PACK is an Australian cousin of Québécoise Poutine and American Chili Cheese Fries. What’s more, H.S.P., as the Ozzies call it, has become a symbol of liberal values and tolerance in Australia; this, in a country not unknown for occasional hard-line immigration.
Today in Part 1, let’s look at its two international cousins. Tomorrow in Part 2, the fair dinkum thing.
H.S.P.’s Québécoise Kin. Poutine, in its classic form, is french fries topped with room-temperature cheese curds and hot brown gravy. According to Wikipedia, “The dish was created in the Centre-du-Québec area in the late 1950s. Several restaurants in the area claim to be the originators of the dish, but no consensus exists.”
My favorite tale about its name comes from Fernand Lachance (quite a surname for an inventive restauranteur!). It was 1957 when a customer requested a handful of cheese curds on a takeout order of fries. Lachance said, “Ça va faire une maudite poutine!” “It will make a damned mess!” In 1962, Lachance added the brown gravy to keep the popular concoction warm.
Authentic poutine has a light gravy, a 50/50 blend made from beef and chicken stock. Image by Camelia.boban of the poutine served at La 3 Brasseurs, Montreal, Quebec.
Today, recipes for poutine have even been known to include Velveeta brand “cheese product.” This used to be called a “cheese spread” until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stepped in. You needn’t feel sorry for Velveeta, however: Many say it’s also the correct thing in an authentic Philly Cheesesteak. Other purists of the latter, by the way, use Cheez Whiz, this one neither a ”spread” nor a “product,” but a cheese “sauce.”
Chili Cheese Fries and Other American Kin.Wikipedia says Chili Cheese Fries “can be found in fast-food locations, diners, and grills around the globe…. The dish originated in the United States, although its exact birthplace is still widely disputed.”
Chili cheese fries. Image by dana robinson.
What with chili meaning different things to different people, it’s no wonder that there are chili cheese fries galore: fries topped with Cheez Whiz and a local chili variation; fries topped with mozzarella and chili; in the American Southwest add bacon bits, jalapeño, and chives; in the Netherlands, notes Wikipedia, “a dish named ‘kapsalon’ [“Hairdresser,” possibly after its originator] served as fast food. This consists of fries covered with cheese, salad, and shawarma or doner kebab. It is often consumed with large amounts of garlic sauce or chili sauce.”
Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll find elements of kapsalon striking a familiar ring Down Under.