About six months ago I asked friends for suggestions on dishes I should work on or adapt for The Chicken Thigh Guy. I got a lot of great ideas, but of course life gets in the way.
One of the suggestions, from my old friend (and chef) Christian, was to develop a recipe for Chicken 65 – a spicy south Indian fried chicken dish that’s relatively uncommon in the States. It’s a common bar snack in India – think of it as a crunchy sweet, sour, and spicy version of popcorn chicken. And the spicy isn’t just heat – garlic, ginger, curry leaves and other aromatic spices make Chicken 65 an extremely uncommon and extremely satisfying snack experience.
I’ve spent a few months developing this recipe – trying other recipes, tasting the few versions I can find (including a frozen one.) I don’t claim it’s in any way authentic. While I’m fascinated by the vast and diverse culinary traditions of South Asia, I’ve never had the opportunity to visit India (though want to travel all over the country and region and eat … everything) and have really only had this particular dish a few times.
I was struck in my research how many different variations there were. I settled on a combination of a few – and on an interesting technique mentioned in a couple of the recipes: After the chicken is fried, then sauced, it’s fried again – this time like a quick stir fry with just the sauce. That final trip across a hot pan gives it an amazing texture and flavor, crisp and slightly smokey and caramelly and spicy all at the same time.
Chicken Thigh 65
Spicy sweet south Indian style fried chicken.
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
½ cup corn starch
¼ cup AP flour
¼ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garam masala, divided
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
½ tsp ground turmeric powder
½ tsp kosher salt
10 curry leaves
1 serrano chili
1 tbsp neutral oil
1 tsp whole mustard seed
Oil for frying
Sliced white onion and sliced lemon as garnish
- In a non-reactive bowl, mix the yogurt, salt, lemon juice, ½ tsp garam masala, and 1 tbsp Kashmiri chili powder.
- Cut the chicken into 2 inch pieces, and add to the yogurt mixture, turning and stirring to coat completely.
- Allow the chicken to rest in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before cooking.
- Mix the corn starch and AP flour in a large bowl.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking to remove excess.
- Once piece at a time, add to the flour and corn starch mixture and to coat well.
- Remove from the breading mixture and set on a sheet pan lined with a rack
- Allow the chicken hydrate uncovered in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Quarter the chili pepper cutting long end to end pieces.
- In a non reactive bowl, mix the ketchup, turmeric, 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder, the remaining garam masala, sugar, garlic and ginger.
- Heat the oil in a thick bottomed pan or fryer to 325°F.
- Fry the chicken pieces until well browned.
- Remove and set aside.
- Add the sauce mixture to a second pan and bring to simmer.
- Cook over medium. Heat for 2-3 minutes or until all ingredients are dissolved and incorporated.
- Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat well.
- Raise the heat and cook until the sauce has reduced and begun to caramelize on the chicken pieces.
- Remove from the pan and set in a warm place.
- Wipe out the pan and add one tbsp neutral oil and return to medium heat.
- Add the chili pieces, mustard seed, and curry leaves to the oil and cook over medium heat until the seeds begin to pop and the curry leaves are dark.
- Pour the mustard, chili, and curry leaf mixture over the chicken.
- Serve with sliced lemons and white onion as garnish.
Be sure to check out my other food project, The Weekly Menu!