Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev

A few of my mates asked if I had eaten a Chicken Kiev in Kiev, and I was also interested in trying the dish in the city after which it was presumably named. However after delving into the origin of Chicken Kiev, I found out that the name is in fact a misnomer.

Like moleskin fabric is not made of moles, and the 100 years’ war went for 116 years, the Chicken Kiev is not from Kiev. In fact, there is an ongoing culinary barney* about who invented the dish and where. One story goes that in the 1840s, Russian chefs were sent to train in France by their royal employers. When they returned they bastardised a French recipe by switching the meat from veal to chicken and the seminal Chicken ‘Kiev’ was born.

Another theory is that the dish was invented in a Moscow restaurant called ‘Kiev’. Some foodies reckon the name ‘Chicken Kiev’ was first applied to the dish 100 years later in the USA, which is arguably a long way from the Ukraine. Naming rights aside, the whisper ’round the bain marie is the original European recipe did not include garlic or parsely; it was just pure butter inside the crumbed fillet. Furthermore, it wasn’t until the 1960’s when international tourists began asking for the Chicken Kiev in Kiev that the dish started to appear on menus within the city. So everything I assumed about the Chicken Kiev turned out to be bullshit.

Although a little deflated after discovering that the Chicken Kiev is about as Kiev-ian as a Chiko Roll**, I was still undeterred. I was going to buy into the myth and ignore the inconvenient truth. I found a place called Chicken Kyiv near the city centre, and figured if I was going to try a Chicken Kiev in Kiev I should try it at the Chicken Kyiv in Kiev. I reckon that’s what the owner was banking on too when he named the place. Not my attendance in particular, but tourists in general, since most of the locals wouldn’t know a Chicken Kiev if it magically dropped into their borsch. So I set off one day on foot from my apartment heading for the Chicken Kyiv to try the famous dish.

Chicken Kyiv restaurant Ukraine
‘Anyone know where I can get a Chicken Kiev around here?’

For those many thousands of readers who do not live in Australia, the Chicken Kiev is a popular dish on pub menus across the nation. It’s found right alongside those other stalwarts the Chicken Parmigiana, steak sandwich, Roast of the Day and the Fisherman’s Basket. The Aussie chicken Kiev is a sizeable roll of chicken chock full of garlic buttery goodness. It’s usually served with a mountain of chips, and your choice of overcooked veggies or an unimaginative but honest salad. Australian interpretations of dishes created overseas often have a ‘Chinese Whispers’ association with the original. Over time and distance they morph into something similar but a little different, and I was keen to know how a Chicken Kiev prepared in Kiev compares to the Antipodean version.

Chicken Kyiv was doing a steady lunchtime trade on the day I turned up, but there was still plenty of space for a lone diner. I must admit I did feel like a bit of a dickhead doing the tourist thing and ordering the Chicken Kiev. But bugger it I am a tourist and so order it I did, although I managed to mask it slightly by ordering a soup entre too.

After quickly dispatching the soup (it was ok, but I’m starting to think that although I only have a sample size of two – my borsch a few weeks ago and now this bowl at the CK – soups are not the strong point of Ukrainian cuisine), the much aniticipated Chicken Kiev arrived. First impressions? A perfectly symmetrical , uniformally golden brown cylinder, but it was a little on the small side. The chicken was placed on a serve of truffle-oil mashed potato, with cauliflower, carrots and cherry tomatoes. Overall the presentation was pleasing, with good colour and structure.


I cut the Kiev in half in order to inspect the garlic butter situation. As the fillet was small, so proportionally was the space inside to hold the sauce. After cutting it the garlic butter ran out, and was a little hard to find afterwards. I tried the chicken, and although the crispy coating of breadcrumbs was tasty, the chicken was overcooked and a bit on the dry side. The truffle mash and veggies were delicious, but I couldn’t help but think the apprentice had cooked the Kiev itself. The flavour of the garlic butter was definitely understated.

The garlic butter was here a second ago…

So how do the two compare? The Aussie Kiev is a big meal, with both the chicken and its accompanyments usually appearing in hearty portions. Big chicken means big garlic butter and big taste. The Kiev Kiev is a more delicate offering altogether; it comes with more subtle flavours, and possibly the need for a snack about an hour later.

I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying one is better than the other. I am assuming the Chicken Kiev I had at Chicken Kyiv is a ‘traditional’ Kiev (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms), and maybe the creators of the dish would view the Aussie Kiev as grotesque. Had the Kiev Kiev not been overcooked it would have been better, though the small amount of garlic butter would have still meant the flavour would have been light-on.

Nice entre

All in all, I enjoyed the experience of having a Chicken Kiev in Kiev, even if it is a bit of a tourist gimmick. I also look forward to a Kiev and a couple of schooners with my mates when I get back to Australia, if that ever happens.

*A ‘barney’ is a slang term for an argument

*A Chiko Roll is an Australian deep fried snack food containing a mysterious mix of vegetables and some unidentifiable other things. Despite the name, it does not contain any chicken

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2 thoughts on “Chicken Kiev

    1. Diesel played for Golden Square too didn’t he Changa? Maybe you and Wayne Campbell enjoyed a Chiko roll watching Diesel in the seniors after your early game when you were nippers?

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