Oh Poutine: Canadian Comfort Food in Seoul, South Korea
As a Canadian, I have a bias on how cheese curds have to be made. They have to be slightly melty, definitely chunky, and above all: they have to squeak! Thankfully, I share this bias with Ellie of Oh Poutine in Itaewon, Seoul. She spends 6-7 hours making each batch of housemade cheese curds. The process involves boiling milk and constantly flipping for the cheddaring process. The thought of flipping milk into cheese all day isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but at Oh Poutine Ellie finds it relaxing. How lucky are we?
Oh Poutine proprietor, Ellie (short for Elisabeth), lived in Vancouver, Canada for 15 years. She studied textile design at Capilano College, then went to Emily Carr University to complete her Fine Arts degree. 5 years ago, Ellie returned to Korea to work for a textile company, but something was missing in Seoul. Oh Poutine was born!
Oh Poutine began its journey back in December of 2015. The opportunity arose for a pop-up shop in in Hyewa area, and Oh Poutine had it’s first home there from December of 2015 through March 2016. On October 10th, 2016, Oh Poutine made its way to Itaewon.
With all the expats in the area, I assumed the new location would be flush with Canadians flocking to get homemade cheese curds, gravy, and fries. We went on a Wednesday night and saw another party dining in and a few people grab take out. This hidden gem is the ultimate spot for a dine-in experience or a sneaky take-away!
Oh Poutine offers 3 different options for cheese: Cheese Curds, Mozzarella, and Curdrella (a combination – yes, please!). While the cheese curd poutine is the most popular, it seems for Koreans cheese has to be melty, not chunky (more for me, thank you!). They tend to prefer the mozzarella version, while foreigners dive into the squeaky cheese curds; a labour of love!
The French fries are slightly crispy on the outside and perfectly soft mashed potatoes on the inside. Just how I like ’em! It actually surprised me when Ellie told us that the fries were frozen. It seems almost all the spots in Itaewon (and Korea – correct me if I’m wrong) serve frozen fries as potatoes are tough to come by out here. I’ve actually heard about a recent potato chip hoarding scandal in Japan as the crops just aren’t growing normally.
This is the first time I’ve had proper brown gravy since leaving Canada for Korea. Oh Poutine has a brown gravy which is deep, rich, thick, and seasoned well. Not for the vegetarians, it contains both beef stock and chicken stock.
Oh Canada – the Oh! Poutine Classic
It’s no wonder the classic, traditional poutine of fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy is the most popular. With two other “Canadian”-themed restaurants in Seoul (which we shall not call out by name), you’d think someone would have been able to create a perfect, no frills Canadian delicacy. Alas, the McCain fries with pepper gravy at one, and the kimchi poutine at the other fall flat, especially when compared with the perfect, simple, classic poutine at Oh Poutine. If you’ve never tried this dish, don’t ruin the experience by heading elsewhere. Go the tried and true route and hit up Oh! Poutine.
The Mexican poutine had tasty fries, bright salsa, an ooey-dooey queso, sour cream, and chives. If I had my choice, I would have topped the fries with pico de gallo for a kick of tomato, onion, and cilantro (I always want more cilantro). My dining companion also suggested fresh avocado on top (not guacamole) and I eagerly agreed. I’m hoping we’ll see an updated, fresher version of this creative take on poutine in Seoul. It’s unlikely, however, as this option tends to be quite popular with Korean guests.
Loaded Baked Potato Poutine
While I loved the classic poutine at Oh Poutine, my favourite variety was loaded with real, crispy bacon! This was like a classic baked potato topped with the classic brown gravy, sour cream, and tons of fresh, tangy chives, too. We were served this version with mozzarella. Next time I would definitely get this variation with either cheese curds or the combination curdrella.
Getting to Oh! Poutine Itaewon
Take Exit 4 of Itaewon Subway Station. Walk down the street (Bogwang-ro, across from Taco Bell) and take your first right turn (onto Bogwang-ro 59-gil). You’ll pass one CU, Wolfhound, and a bunch of other restaurants and bars. When you get to the second CU convenience store, turn left. You’ll see the restaurant (Oh Poutine: 18-1 Itaewon-ro-20-gil, Yongsan-gu, 04391 Seoul, South Korea) on your right within a couple of blocks!
Contact Oh! Poutine
Thank you so much Ellie at Oh! Poutine for inviting me to sample your delicious poutine. It’s so nice to be known as the “Canadian Food Blogger in Seoul”! We will most certainly be back soon.
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