Ready for a fiery snack? Try making the fiery Indian appetiser, Chicken 65, a heavily-spiced meat dish originating from the Buhari Hotel in Chennai.

What is it?

Chennai’s favourite non-veg snack is devil red and devilishly spicy – the perfect accompaniment to a cold Kingfisher on a steamy South Indian afternoon.

Ingredients (serves 4)

500g boneless chicken, cut into chunks 
1 tsp ginger, grated 
1 tsp garlic, crushed 
10 curry leaves 
5-6 whole green chillies 
1 cup vegetable oil 
1 tbs coriander, chopped

For the marinade: 
2 tsp of red Kashmiri chilli powder 
1 tsp grated ginger 
1 tsp crushed garlic 
½ tsp turmeric powder 
½ tsp ground black pepper 
1 tbs lemon juice 
Pinch of salt

For the sauce: 
1 cup natural yoghurt 
1 tsp of red Kashmiri chilli powder 
½ tsp of red food colouring 
½ tsp turmeric powder 
½ tsp coriander powder 
Pinch of salt

For the batter:
1 egg 
2 tbs of cornflour 
1 tbs of rice flour 
1 tbs water

An up-close view of a serving of Chicken 65: a dish of chicken mixed with a number of different spices, which gives the food a red appearance.
Chicken 65 is immediately identifiable due to its hot red colour © Naufal MQ / Shutterstock

How to cook

Step 1: Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a stain-proof bowl  and combine with the chicken until thoroughly coated. Allow to marinate for at least an hour. 
Step 2: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl, and set aside. 
Step 3: For the batter, beat the egg and combine with the other batter ingredients until they form a smooth paste; stir together with the marinated chicken. 
Step 4: In a wok, heat a cup of vegetable oil and deep-fry the chicken on a medium flame till golden. Set aside on a piece of kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil. 
Step 5: Discard the frying oil and add 2 tbs of fresh vegetable oil to your pan. Saute the ginger and garlic for a few seconds until aromatic then add the curry leaves and green chillies and the battered chicken pieces. 
Step 6: Add the yoghurt mixture and cook on a medium flame until it is almost absorbed and the chicken pieces are almost dry. 
Step 7: Garnish your devil-red chicken pieces with chopped coriander and serve.

Huge, colourful crowds peruse the stalls at Chennai's fish market. Various varieties of fish are visible on the small tables being sold by vendors.
The taste of Chicken 65 evokes the bustling streets and markets of Chennai, India © gnanistock / Shutterstock

Tasting notes

You can still find the original Chicken 65 at the restaurant where it was invented, but the street-side offering is just as delicious. And even in its streetwise incarnation, this is one snack that looks great on a plate – candy apple-red chicken pieces tossed together with whole green chillies, curry leaves and chopped coriander. Perfect Chicken 65 should be served straight from the pan, still sizzling but moist and tender inside its chilli and spice jacket. The flavours should hit you in waves – chilli, garlic, ginger, pepper, coriander. It’s lip-smackingly good and will leave a tingle on your lips that is best quenched with an ice cold bottle of Kingfisher.

Other recipes in this series:
Mexican tacos
French macarons
Greek avgolemono

Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Spicy Food.

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This article was first published April 2020 and updated August 2020

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