How Did Chicken 65 Get Its Name?

Chicken 65 is a type of Indian food that provides a combination of saltiness, crunch, and spice that might make you sweat and smile. This chicken dish is typically marinated before frying and coated in a sauce of curry leaves, ginger, garlic, chilies (via NDTV Food). Common as bite-sized street food morsels, Chicken 65 is highly popular during Ramadan (via The Kitchn) but can be enjoyed throughout the year as both casual or dine-in options, too. And while there's a myriad of ways to eat this strangely named dish, there are even more stories as to how it got its unusual name in the first place.

One common theory is that this chicken dish was the 65th item on a restaurant menu (via The Kitchn). This certainly seems plausible, as many restaurants of all varieties can name their dishes by number for clarity. Another theory holds that the dish named for the number of a certain ingredient, like 65 chiles or 65 spices. Considering that the recipes shared on NDTV Food and The Kitchen list closer to a dozen or so spices, we think that sounds unlikely (or at least not supported by this evidence). The number 65 could refer to 65 pieces of chicken, but it seems far-fetched that most busy kitchens would be counting these morsels out one by one.

Chicken 65 might allude to a hotel dish

It seems plausible (maybe even likely) that this dish has origins that date back to the year 1965 (via NDTV Food). In this theory, the name traces back to a dish served in Tamil Nadu by a gentleman called A.M. Buhari at the Buhari Hotel, a fine dining location. The establishment also used to serve dishes called Chicken 78 and Chicken 82 and continued to offer Chicken 90 as of 2017. In an apparent variant of the menu story, soldiers in Chennai who weren't fluent in the local language may have used the "65" to identify the item on a long menu.

 Whatever the origins, Chicken 65 has now spread far and wide and developed its own local flavors. According to chef Sebastian Abraham of Zambar, "Chicken 65 is a classic but each South Indian state has its own version. Personally, I love Chicken 65 with the bone but restaurant rules dictate that we serve boneless because it's much easier to eat." Chef Abraham also described his restaurant's Kerala-style Chicken 65 as containing "hand-made masalas" and "a fiery red chutney." You might also find a Karnataka version of Chicken 65 is garnished with freshly grated coconut or a Tamil Nadu version called  Kori Sukka that is described as being similar to Keralas' take.

However Chicken 65 got its original name, fans can confidently name it today as "Delicious."