A taste of Canada in Tokyo #2

Becker’s poutine: The mystery revealed

A taste of Canada in Tokyo #2

Poutine (Left: bacon & cheese. Centre: gravy sauce. Right: meat sauce)

From bagels to poutine: Time Out Tokyo continues its exploration of Canadian cuisine in Tokyo.

Originating from rural Quebec, Canadian fast food Poutine consists of chips topped with cheese and brown gravy. Poutine’s OTT grease, salt and carbohydrate factor is enough to send one’s ‘calori-o-metre’ right off the scale, yet like any other fast food boasting a heart-attack inducing triumvirate, it’s highly, highly addictive. The Quebecois are able to indulge their fix via poutine speciality shops, fast food chains and even as a side dish in many restaurants. Whether eaten as a main meal, snack, or to round off a night of drinking, poutine is so common in Quebec that it’s eaten daily.

Yet where to eat poutine in Tokyo? The answer to this question, as Canadians will tell you, depends on how you define poutine. Time Out Tokyo set out to find a restaurant in Tokyo with ‘poutine’ specifically on the menu. Little did we know that our search would end at the ubiquitous fast food chain Becker’s, most popular for its handmade sandwiches and burgers. Questions needed to be answered: What’s Becker’s connection with Canada? Why does the menu have a slightly odd spelling of ‘poutine’? Most importantly: Is this the same poutine found in Quebec? And why has Becker’s put poutine on the menu in the first place?

In charge of Becker’s sales, promotions, advertising and management, Mori from JR Food Business Co. Ltd. explains...

Poutine at Becker’s: The mystery revealed...

When did poutine first appear on Becker’s menu?
Mori: Becker’s started selling poutine in winter 2000.

Very few people in Japan have even heard of poutine; why is it on Becker’s menu?
Mori: In the summer of 2000, we received an invitation from the United States Potato Board to visit America and observe at first hand, various factories, restaurants and farms. During our study we encountered something completely new to us: chips, topped with gravy sauce and cheese.

After returning to Japan, we sat down with our development team and spoke about producing a similar dish for the Japanese market. It was at this point we realised we were talking about the Canadian staple, poutine.

At that time, about the only fast food potato dishes commonly available in Japan were French fries and baked potatoes. By simply adding a sauce topping, however, we could produce a third alternative. After developing a trial version, we conducted internal tasting sessions before releasing a version for the general market. Initials plans were for a limited release only. Surprisingly, poutine proved to be so popular it’s now on on our Grand Menu!

The first time I read your menu I couldn’t help noticing the slightly odd spelling of ‘poutine’. In Quebec, poutine is generally pronounced either ‘poo-tin’ or ‘poo-teen’. Why is it named something different again at Becker’s?
Mori: We basically altered the spelling to make the English word easier [for Japanese customers] to pronounce.

Moving on to sauces. Becker’s offer three varieties: gravy sauce, bacon and cheese sauce, and meat sauce. Why so many options?
Mori: When we first introduced poutine, gravy sauce, meat sauce, and curry sauce options were on offer. Since then more than twenty different sauces have been trialed locally. The current three have proved the most popular.

Becker’s gravy sauce topping seems thicker than that of traditional poutine. Why is this the case?
Mori: We are very particular about our gravy sauce, which is adapted slightly for Japanese tastes. Subtle changes include the addition of light soy sauce, among others.

So, in other words, this sauce is unique to Japan— what do customers think of your poutine?
Mori: Most customers order poutine when they just want a quick bite to eat. We also have Becker’s regulars who visit specifically for poutine. Both types of customers have made poutine one of the most popular side dishes on our menu. We’ve even received enquiries from customers who’ve discovered poutine whilst on a trip to Canada, and from Canadians looking for poutine in Japan.

You must be pleased when customers specifically come looking for poutine. I hadn’t imagined that it would be so popular. Thanks very much for taking the time to tell us about your poutine.
Mori: Becker’s is always striving to improve and adapt its menu. Thanks for stopping by.

Eating Poutine at Becker’s:

Selected locations include:

(in front of Naka-meguro station (Toyoko Line), along Yamate-dori)
Telephone: (03)3760 0581
closed on Feb 28, 2010

Tamachi (within station)
Telephone: (03)5418 5103

Akihabara (Denkigai exit)
Telephone: (03)3251 4138

Okachimachi (south exit)
Telephone: (03)5812 7215

Iidabashi (east exit)
Telephone: (03)3261 6868

Mitaka (north exit)
Telephone: (0422)44 6361

Akabane (south exit)
Telephone: (03)5249 3066

Hachioji (within station)
Telephone: (042)628 0628

Granduo Kamata
(within station, on the 1st floor of Granduo Kamata’s east building)
Telephone: (03)5713 6367

Ikebukuro East Exit shop (within JR Ikebukuro station, outside east exit ticket gates)
Telephone: (03)5953 2077

Website: www.jefb.co.jp/beckers/

By Mai Michitsuji
Translated by Brin Wilson
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


3 comments Add a comment

La poutine a Tokyo c'est moi !

Posted by Jonathan Rauch on Apr 25 2010 00:46

Sorry to say, Becker's poutine is nothing like real poutine which should be made with cheese curds.

Posted by Real Canadian on Apr 23 2010 17:29

So happy about poutine in Tokyo. Last time I had decent Poutine was in a bar in Hong Kong. Poutine & Canada Rocks.

Posted by Rebekah on Feb 17 2010 11:04

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