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Est. 1996

Issue 204

January 2014

The History of Chicken 65

by Peter Grove

 

 

 

 

 Chicken 65 is a very popular spicy, deep-fried chicken dish originating from Chennai (Madras), India, as a bar snack, entree, or quick snack. The flavour of the dish comes from ginger, cayenne pepper, mustard powder and vinegar although the exact recipe can vary. It can be prepared using chicken on or off the bone.

While the name "Chicken 65" is universally used to refer to the dish, there are many different stories for how the name came about although none have any supporting evidence. Many sources claim Chicken 65 was a dish introduced in 1965 at the famous Buhari Hotel restaurant in Chennai by its founder A.M.Buhari, a pioneer in the South Indian food industry. They also offer Chicken 78, Chicken 82 and Chicken 90, introduced in 1978, 1982 and 1990 respectively which lends credence to the claim. The launch of the Chicken 65 in the year 1965 was well documented with advertisements in national dailies like The Hindu and A.M.Buhari didn't want to monopolize the product by patenting the recipe which would hinder the global popularity of the product.

Other claims on the reason for the name are:

*The dish is said to require 65 days to prepare the marinade, but this is unlikely for reasons of freshness and flavour.

*One account claims that the dish emerged as a simple meal solution for Indian soldiers in 1965.

*Another account claims that it is a dish containing 65 chilli peppers devised by an enterprising hotelier

*The name is also claimed to relate to a requirement for the meat to be from 65-days-old chickens.

*Yet another source claims that northern Indian army soldiers frequented a military canteen in Chennai. Its menu were written in Tamil, the local language. As most of the soldiers could not read Tamil, they made their choice by citing the number of the dish on the menu. The dish's popularity spread among the soldiers by word of mouth. They'd simply ask for "number 65"; soon, the dish officially became to be known as Chicken 65.

Atul Bhola, owner of Masala Art in Tenleytown, where you can order the dish, supports this saying the name comes from a restaurant in southern India where Chicken 65 was merely the 65th item on a long list of chalkboard dishes. this dish originated in a military canteen in Chennai and as most of the soldiers, officers were from various parts of the country, to avoid language problems, they actually used a unique numbering system in the menu card/board. and this particular dish was the 65th item on that menu. so it became chicken 65.

Whatever the origins Chicken 65 is famous and popular and has found a place in most non-vegetarian restaurants. One famous London restaurant that features it and it calls it Madras Buhari Chicken 65 lending credence to the Buhari claim as the origin,

Perhaps a favourite version of the story is one that in The Hindu, which suggests that the Chicken 65 recipe first used 65 chillies for every kilogram of chicken - based on the popularity of spicy food as a way to prove one's manhood!

 

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Mood Food is published by FSR, London, England © 2014

Editor:

Peter J. Grove

Editorial office: PO Box 416 Surbiton, Surrey, England, KT1 9BJ

Tel: 020 8399 4831

email: GroveInt@aol.com