See how 6 Canadians took our cuisine abroad

Homegrown grub & culture in Bali, Thailand & the USA.

Snack Bar Bkk 2 web
Snack Bar BKK. All photos by Caitlin Stall-Paquet
Although the federal government sometimes seems hell-bent on destroying it, Canadians do enjoy a favourable international reputation. We’re the good-natured warriors of the cold.

Also, we travel a lot. Maybe it’s due to our frigid winters, but considering how far we are from most of the world and how few people actually live here, it’s impressive that we are the seventh biggest spender on international travel. This means that many of us end up falling in love with a place, or sometimes just falling in love, and quite literally set up shop all over the world.

There are Canadians serving up classic homegrown dishes on the other side of the planet, and some who’ve created something new entirely.

Snack Bar BKK

For decades now, Bruno Blanchet has been one of Quebec’s most beloved comedians with his particular brand of absurdist humour. He turned into a travel writer in 2004 and has now morphed again into a restaurant owner/unofficial ambassador of poutine in Southeast Asia.

He chose to make the ever-bustling metropolis of Bangkok home base and opened Snack Bar BKK with his partner Onnicha, on a small street (soi) close to the backpacker neighbourhood. While close to an area full of tourist-catered atmosphere, this soi in the busy Phra Nakhon neighbourhood still has local charm.

Although SBB clearly has a large expat clientele, including many Québécois hoping to meet Mr. Blanchet himself, he has apparently hooked the locals on poutine.

Onnicha has learned the Blanchet heirloom secret sauce recipe, the spices for which are the only Canada-imported ingredient, and serves up many variations on the classic including Thai-style chilli and basil poutine. The various menu items, such as deliciously crispy falafel, are made mostly of local market ingredients.

Between Onnicha’s cousin (who makes the pitas) or the Japanese expat who bakes their bread, the effort is both local and global. SBB is at once a place of cultural convergence and a comforting taste of home. When I was there, Jean Leloup was playing on the radio while expats chatted over big Chang beers.

At first Bruno was nervous that their space was too small, but then realized that this was actually a strength because people eventually start talking to the next table over. “Poutine is a pretext,” he told me. “It allows for hockey, beer and an inevitable ensuing party.”