My first experience with the famous Chicken 65 was when a bunch of my Hyderabadi friends mentioned it as their favorite dish. I, a strict Punjabi, had never heard of the thing. They raved about how good it was, but I never bothered to investigate further.
Then, last week, I went to visit some family in New Jersey. My aunt served this delicious looking red chicken, sprinkled with curry leaves. I thought it was normal tandoori chicken (which I love), so I was excited. But when I took a bite…..the love affair began.
This stuff is awesome. It’s an amazing balance of sour, sweet, savory, and downright spicy. My mom and I challenged ourselves to recreate it at home, and she found this recipe by the Vah Chef (this guy is pretty fun to watch; i’ll have to investigate further). Why’s it called Chicken 65? Vah Chef tells you.
I’ve just written out his recipe, plus a few changes that we made. I’m giving the recipe as we made it, but I think next time we’ll make it a bit saucier (i.e. double all the sauce ingredients except maybe the curry leaves). I suggest you watch his video for the technique alongside this recipe (not that it’s that complicated, but he’s really excited about it).
Recipe after the jump.
Adapted from Vah Chef
Chicken and Marinade
2 lbs boneless chicken legs and thighs, cut into cubes
2 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg, beaten
salt, black pepper
1 tsp each fresh ginger and garlic
1 or 2 small green chilis, cut into slivers
Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin (zeera) seeds
1 tsp powdered cumin
1/2 to 1 tsp chili powder (to taste)
1/4 cup chili-garlic sauce (see note)
about 10 curry leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbs each fresh ginger and garlic
1/2 – 1 tsp garam masala
salt, black pepper
1 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup water
4-5 drops red food coloring
Note: our Swad brand chili-garlic sauce was not very spicy, and it was more saucy than say, a Sriracha. That’s why we were able to use 1/4 cup of it. If you’re using Sriracha, use as much as you want for the spice content, and then maybe add a little Pakistani-style ketchup for the sauce factor.
1. Marinate the chicken pieces in salt, pepper, ginger, and garlic for about 15-20 minutes. (Note that Vah Chef uses aginimoto, aka MSG. I do not.)
2. Add the cornstarch to the chicken and mix well to coat. Add a beaten egg and stir until coated. It’s okay if it’s lumpy.
3. Deep fry the chicken pieces in oil and drain on a paper towel while you make the sauce.
4. Heat some oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When they start sputtering, add the garlic and ginger, the green chilis, cumin powder, chili powder, garam masala, and some black pepper.
5. After couple minutes, add the curry leaves. DO NOT SKIMP ON THE CURRY LEAVES. They are what make the entire dish.
Wait, Cup of Tea, you say. You said there’s really no such thing as curry. True. It’s not a catch-all for all Desi food, it’s the name of one particular dish. “Curry” as Desis know it is chickpea fritters in cooked turmeric-yellow yogurt sauce flavored with *surprise!* curry leaves. Curry leaves are very popular in South Indian cooking. They have a sour, bitter, peppery smell, and are usually added to vegetable dishes (lentils, eggplant, cabbage), to add a sour, peppery flavor (bitter only if you add too many).
But I digress.
6.5. Add half the cilantro leaves as well.
7. Add the chili sauce (or chili sauce + ketchup). Let everything cook together for a few minutes. When it starts to dry up, add the lemon juice and red food coloring. (i guess you could make it red, blue, or green too, but that would just be weird).
8. Right before you add the chicken back into the pan, add the water to the spices and stir until everything is well dissolved.
9. Add the chicken back in and stir to cover with the sauce. Cook until the water is absorbed.
10. Before serving, sprinkle with the rest of the fresh cilantro.
Awesome. Trust me.