This sticky, spicy chicken curry is deliciously sweet and packs just the right amount of heat. It is to be scooped up with warm, chewy naan, then licked off of fingers.
Also, it has a very special place in my heart, for two reasons. First, because it constitutes one of the two dinners my boyfriend Adarsh has ever made for me, and second, because I'm not sure it exists outside of his family kitchen. If you ask him, he will call it Chicken 65. But if you then google "Chicken 65", you will find plenty of recipes bearing that name, but none that are even remotely close to this particular dish... hmm. Considering it stars ketchup as its secret ingredient, I am forced to question its authenticity as a traditional Indian curry. But it is delicious, regardless of whether or not it is regularly eaten off of banana leaves in the kitchens of the East.
Your first step is to hunt down some curry leaves. Their flavour is irreplaceable in this dish - a bit nutty, warm, and citrusy. Used a lot in South Indian cooking, they have nothing to do with "curry powder" which is a blend of spices.
Start by browning the chicken in a heavy skillet - make sure the oil is good and hot and the chicken has been patted dry before you put it in the pan. Don't flip it until it releases easily - if it is sticking, leave it - it will tear if you try and turn it before it is ready. Next, cook the onions gently over low heat for about 10 minutes to coax out the sweetness. Then add the spices to the pan to saute before the liquid is added. These three steps have a big flavour impact.
As far as curries go, the ingredient list is very short. Which makes it a great curry for beginners, if you can track down some curry leaves at an Indian grocer. I served mine with naan (improvised with dough I had made from the basic Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day recipe) and a vegetable yogurt curry, with eggplant and tomatoes.
So here is Adarsh's recipe for his family Chicken 65, made yesterday in honour of his lovely sister Archana's birthday. Happy birthday, Achu!
Adarsh's Chicken 65 Curry
2 tbsp oil
4 chicken thighs
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup dried curry leaves (use fresh leaves instead, if you can find them)
1 tsp cayenne
3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup chicken broth
1. Heat oil in a heavy skillet (I use cast iron) over medium-high heat. Pat chicken thighs with paper towel to dry before adding to skillet. Brown on both sides, flipping only once. Set aside.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add chopped onions to skillet. Cook for 10 minutes, until soft and golden. Add garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add cayenne and curry leaves, and saute for 1 minute. Return chicken to skillet, and add ketchup and chicken broth. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or more, until chicken is cooked and tender, and sauce has thickened.