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The dish commonly called coronation chicken originated in the United Kingdom, where this kind of preparation followed the industrialization of the country, and became popular in the post-war era. Coronation chicken is a kind of cold prepared chicken that can be used as a sandwich filling. It combines classic elements of British cuisine with some of the vibrant tastes of South Asian and near Eastern nations. This food is what some people would call a “comfort food” – it is easy to make and to use in meals that can be quickly put together. It has the additional advantage of not needing to be heated, making it even more of what some in the U.K. might call a “ready meal.”
Coronation chicken includes cooked thin slices of chicken meat, cooled, as well as mayonnaise or a similar dressing element, and a variety of herbs and flavorings. In many coronation chicken dishes, a pre-mixed curry powder or a curry paste provides the herbal flavoring and coloring for the dish, which is usually a bright yellow. The pre-mixed curry products replace a more traditional preparation of carefully mixing together raw spices and herbs. In these older curry recipes, turmeric is often responsible for the bright yellow color.
Other spices used in coronation chicken include hot chilis, garlic, ginger and coriander. Some advanced recipes call for whole spices like star anise to be used with chicken stock and used in flavoring the dish indirectly. Spices can be used to flavor either the chicken or the additional sauce element. Some coronation chicken recipes may include a particular marinade.
In addition to the spices and herbs used for flavoring this chicken dish, some of the more formal versions of this dish feature garnishes that favor a British way of cooking, while other additions to the plate reference the regions of the world where curry originated. Chefs in the U.K. might use almonds, raisins or apricots as garnishes. Some versions of the dish call for a yogurt and lemon juice mix for a side sauce. Other kinds of coronation chicken include exotic items like mango chutney.
The coronation chicken dish is an excellent example of the polyglot influences that surround British cuisine in general. The adoption of these flavors is part of what elevates English fare from its reputation as a “bland” menu. Anyone around the world can create dishes based on traditional U.K. favorites based on simple dish like this one.
The recipe for coronation chicken sounds a lot like my preferred chicken salad recipe! I use plain yogurt instead of mayo, but I use curry powder, onion, raisins, etc.
I had no idea that my chicken salad, based pretty much on seasonings I like was actually so close to a national dish in Britain. I just love curry and I like chicken salad, so I combined the two. Raisins were a natural addition, as were cashews. It all just worked.
The dish got its name from the great pomp and circumstance surrounding Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953. Rationing didn't end completely until 1954, but this dish didn't use a huge amount of meat, so it was appropriate for most people, even under rationing.
Everything had a coronation theme in that year, much like the "Wedding fever" that swept Britain in 1981 when Charles and Diana married. So, coronation chicken made sense.
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