Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Of Chicken 65 and Rajnikanth Flicks

Today’s dish Chicken 65, is the second best thing to come out from Chennai. The first being Rajnikanth.  And just like Rajnikanth, it is humble, is unassuming, has a huge fan base, and above all, manages to quietly steal the show from everything else at the table. There is a bit of history thrown in behind the invention of the chicken 65, which goes something like this.

Many years ago, a customer walked into a small little restaurant in Chennai and asked to be served a meal. Now, it was around closing time; but not wanting to send back a hungry customer, the owner ordered the chef to quickly prepare something from whatever was available in the pantry. The chef did and the customer left with a grateful heart only to come back the next day and ask that the same dish be served to him. This went on for a couple of days and then, the owner decided to feature the dish on his regular menu. The  menu already had 64 items and this went on to become the 65th item, thus prompting the name “Chicken 65”. 

Another story goes back to the pre-Independence era, when the British soldiers who frequented the military cafĂ© in Chennai. They had a favorite dish whose longish name they couldn’t pronounce and there ordered it by saying “Chicken 65”. The 65 apparently rhyming with the last name of the dish. Sounds interesting right?

Food does becoming interesting when there is a story to back it up.  But this dish is not just about the story behind it. It is about its simplicity in every aspect making it a case in point for cynics who don't buy the argument that simple dishes can be tasty as well. Picture this, you marinate the chicken, cover it with batter and fry it, toss it in the sauce. Not too difficult, right? Yet, every bite will make you swoon, towards the end you will be full, but not satisfied and in all probability will have you asking for more. Pretty much like a Rajnikanth classic flick where you know you cannot go wrong.

I had initially not planned to make Chicken 65. I had boneless chicken in the fridge and in all probability would have gone in for a Chinese meal, but as the proverbial twist in the tale, the majority voted against Chinese and I decided to make Chicken 65. The only real effort was staying away from the crisp fried chicken and proceeding to the preparation of the gravy. I was pretty thrilled at the result simply for the fact that I got it right in the first go. My suggestion is don’t make it with a lot of gravy; it just enough to coat the chicken pieces  and yet give you that feeling of it lingering on your pallete.

Try it, the feeling of ecstasy and satisfaction you will derive be unparalleled. Mine was!! 

Chicken 65


For marinating the Chicken 

  • 550 grams chicken, cut into medium sized pieces (you could either use boneless or with bone)
  • 2 teaspoons, red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon, turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon, crushed pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt to taste
For the batter
  • 6 tablespoons, rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons, cornflour
  • 1 egg, beaten well
  • Salt- a pinch
  • Oil, sufficient to fry the chicken pieces
For the gravy:
  • 100 grams, Greek yoghurt, whisked well
  • 2 teaspoons, garlic paste 
  • 1 teaspoon, ginger paste
  • 3-4 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 Sprig, Curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon, cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon, red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon, turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon, garam masala powder
  • 1 teaspoon, corriander powder
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons, oil
  • Salt- to taste

  • Wash the chicken, pat it dry and marinate it with the red chilli powder, turmeric powder, pepper and lemon juice. Do not add the salt at this time. Keep it aside for an hour.
  • Sieve together the rice flour, and corn flour and the salt and keep aside. Beat the egg well.
  • Now heat the oil on medium heat. 
  • Line two bowls one with the rice flour and corn flour and the other with the egg.
  • Add the salt to the chicken pieces and mix well. Take each piece of chicken and coat well with the egg and the flour mixture (in that order) and fry in the oil till each piece stands out separately and is golden brown in colour.
  • Take out and drain on a absorbent paper. While we proceed to make the sauce.
  • In a deep bottom pan, heat the oil (mentioned under the heading "for the gravy").
  • Once it heats up, add the curry leaves and the cumin seeds and allow them to crackle.
  • When the curry leaves release aroma, add the ginger, garlic paste, green chillies and saute well.
  • Add the spice powders and mix well. Sprinkle a few drops of water so that the powders don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Now, add the yoghurt, salt and mix well to integrate the spice powders.
  • Finally add in the fried chicken pieces and mix well so that the yoghurt gravy is fairly dry and the chicken pieces are coated well.
  • Transfer to the serving plate, sprinkle lemon juice and serve hot.

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