Decoding Chicken 65: How This Popular Starter Got Its Name
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

While Idli, Dosa, Sambar, Upma, Appam, and Uttapam are usually the top dishes that come to mind when one thinks of India’s southern state, there is so much more to the food from this region. The non-vegetarian dishes, be they Kerala’s Fish Moilee or Tamil Nadu’s Dindigul Biryani, are equally popular and boast some of the most complex flavour profiles.

Featuring a unique spice blend, these dishes are high in taste and sometimes even spice levels. In the spicy Chicken 65  for instance, chicken pieces are marinated and then deep-fried to perfection, giving them a crispy exterior while remaining tender inside.  It is usually garnished with fried curry leaves and green chillies. 

Video Credit: Spice Eats

Chicken is marinated with yoghurt, ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, lemon juice, and salt. It is covered and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes. Before frying, combine rice flour or corn flour and eggs with the marinated chicken. This helps in getting a crispy coating. 

Oil is heated in a pan and the chicken pieces are added in batches and fried for 5-7 minutes on each side. The fried chicken is tempered with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chillies and curry leaves. After this, ginger-garlic paste is added, followed by red chilli powder and yoghurt. The fried chicken pieces are added to the tempering mixture and tossed well.

It is commonly found in restaurants and homes. It is often served as an appetiser, a snack, or even a side dish. Its popularity has also led to the creation of other dishes following the same naming pattern, such as Fish 65 and Prawn 65.

The dish has also gained international recognition and can be found in Indian restaurants around the world. Over time, Chicken 65 has evolved, with various regions adapting the recipe to suit local tastes. Today you can find  Chicken 65 Biryani, a fusion of Chicken 65 and Biryani, combining the flavours of both dishes; Paneer 65, a vegetarian version using paneer instead of chicken; and Gobi 65, a vegan version using cauliflower.

While the name of this dish has intrigued foodies for many years, there are several theories behind its origin. Shrouded in secrecy and lost in layers of delicious gossip, the story of how this dish got its name remains debatable. While some seem plausible, others are a mix of ridiculous, hilarious and far-fetched. Here’s a look at some of the theories.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Origin At The Buhari Hotel, Chennai

It is believed that Chicken 65 originated in the year 1965 at the Buhari Hotel in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The Internet says that A.M. Buhari, the founder of the Buhari Hotel chain, is credited with inventing the dish. According to this account, Chicken 65 was first served at the hotel as a quick snack for customers, and its popularity quickly soared. According to this theory, Chicken 65  is named after the year in which it was introduced.

Number Of Ingredients

Another theory says that back in the day, 65 different spices or ingredients went into making this dish. This theory seems rather unlikely since 65 ingredients seem like a bit of a stretch in this case.

Menu Item Number

Some believe that Chicken 65 was simply the 65th item on a menu at a military canteen in South India. This explanation seems like it could be true, given the simplicity of assigning numbers to menu items back in the day for easy identification.

Age Of The Chicken

A funny version suggests that the chicken used in the dish was 65 days old. This specific age of the chicken supposedly made it ideal for frying, resulting in the perfect texture and taste.

Portion Size

Another less common theory suggests that the dish got its name because it was originally served in 65-gram portions.

Popularity in 1965

Some people believe that the dish became widely popular in 1965, thus earning the name Chicken 65.

Origin In The Indian Army

There is a theory that Chicken 65 was a popular dish among Indian soldiers stationed in remote areas. The number 65 could refer to the year it became popular among the troops, or it might relate to a specific battalion or regiment.