Chicken 65: A Curious Name-Game

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    It's a spicy, deep-fried chicken entrée with a number at the end of its name. If you haven’t guessed already, this crunchy, punchy starter is Chicken 65, as much a culinary delight as its name is a mystery.

    Come, dig into the delicious story of this palate-pleaser.

    The more outlandish of the theories surrounding the name ‘Chicken 65’ is that the chicken is cut into 65 pieces. If that were true, how large would the bird have to be! Crazier still, some say the chicken used must be 65 days old, not a day more, not a day less.

    Others claim the original recipe calls for 65 ingredients or spices. If that were true, we’d have to rechristen it ‘Chicken Potpourri’.

    Then there are those who say that when made the authentic way, the chicken must be marinated for 65 days. Wait, isn’t that a health code violation?

    A little more plausible but probably also untrue is the tale that this lip-smacking recipe was a hit among soldiers who ate at military canteens in Chennai. The soldiers, it appears, were North Indian and not conversant in Tamil. When they ordered off the menu – they couldn’t resist this chicken entrée – they would point to Item No 65. No prizes for guessing what that dish was! But 65 items on a military – or any – menu?

    For the most universal explanation for the name ‘Chicken 65’, travel to Mount Road, Chennai, to the city’s famous Buhari restaurant. Founded by A M Buhari, whose first love was food and who went on to become Sheriff of Madras (1973-74), this restaurant has many firsts to its name.

    Buhari was the first in Madras (now Chennai) to offer fine dining, a tradition introduced by the British in India, but with an Indian menu. For this, the story goes, Buhari imported crockery all the way from London. What is fine dining without china, right?

    A visionary entrepreneur, Buhari also imported a jukebox to play sentimental hits as patrons savoured the delights he served at his landmark eaterie. One of these was Chicken 65, a recipe invented in the kitchens of this restaurant in the year 1965.

    And what do you know? Buhari’s Chicken 65 was such a hit that it was followed up with Chicken 78, 82 and 90!

    Over the years, the menu at Buhari’s has changed many times over but there’s one offering that hasn’t – a chicken entrée that found a place on restaurant menus across the country.

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