Streetfood Stories: Chicken 65 – the magic number


The streetfood of India has a history almost as rich and diverse as the country itself. In Streetfood Stories we reveal the tales behind some of our popular dishes. 

65 chillies? Are you sure?

65 chillies? Are you sure?

What is it with food and numbers? British ice-cream lovers have long debated the meaning of the 99 Flake, and in India we have our own mystery number in the popular Chicken 65.

There are nearly as many stories about the origin of the name as there are variations of this dish – every street restaurant in Southern India will have their own “secret” version to tempt in diners.

The only thing agreed on is that it is a delicious snack of diced chicken marinated in Southern Indian spices and deep fried – with chilli up front and garlic and ginger adding richness.

But as for the name? Take your pick, from the believable to the bizarre:

  • It was originally made from a chicken cut into 65 pieces
  • The original recipe called for 65 chillies
  • The chicken used should be 65 days old
  • The chicken is marinated for 65 days
  • It was the 65th dish on a menu for army officers..

In fact, you could probably come up with your own version of the story.. just add the number 65!

The most likely story – though unconfirmed – is that the dish was popularised by chef AM Buhari, a pioneer in the South Indian food industry. The dish is said to have first appeared on the menu at Buhari Hotel restaurant in Chennai (then Madras) in.. 1965!

Certainly the chef is credited with making the dish popular and Mr Buhari was made Sheriff of Madras in 1973, a high honour given to people who have excelled in their field.

Once you taste Chicken 65 you’ll appreciate why it is a dish worthy of honouring, whatever the true story of its name.


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