This sticky, spicy Chicken 65 Curry is so delicious and packs just the right amount of heat. It hits all the sweet, spicy and nutty notes in plate-licking proportion. Scoop it up with warm, chewy naan or soft chapatis, or alongside fluffy basmati rice.
Chicken 65 has a very special place in my heart because it constitutes one of the two dinners my Indian husband has ever made for me (the second is grilled cheese). 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, and everyone who has tried it has loved it. The incredible sticky, spicy thing it’s got going on reminds me of BBQ ribs, or like food court Chinese food. Just unstoppable.
What You Need
As far as curries go, the Chicken 65 ingredient list is very short. The aromatics are pantry staples: onion, garlic and ginger. (If ginger isn’t a staple, buy some and keep it in the freezer so you always have it when you need it!)
I’m sure you have ketchup on hand. The only ground spice is chili powder (like cayenne or Kashmiri red chili powder).
Your first step is to hunt down some curry leaves. Best if fresh but dried will do. I buy them at an Indian grocer but I’ve seen them at other Asian grocery stores and sometimes at the supermarket with the plastic clamshell boxes of herbs in produce. Their flavour is irreplaceable in this dish – a bit nutty, toasty, and uniquely aromatic. Used a lot in South Indian cooking, they have nothing to do with “curry powder” which is a blend of spices.
How to Make Chicken 65
The process for making Chicken 65 (and most curries) is simple but happens stepwise, with layers of flavour and seasoning built up gradually for an incredibly tasty finished dish.
Start by softening the onions completely until golden to coax out the sweetness. The patience you invest in the onions will pay big returns. Expect at least 10 minutes for this step (more if your onions are cold from the fridge or not super-thinly sliced). When cooked until completely soft, the onions not only melt into the sauce and actually become the sauce, they add an incredible savoury sweetness that counters the earthy spices and heat.
Then add the curry leaves to the pan to sizzle before the ginger and garlic are added. Sizzling the curry leaves toasts them, incorporating that nutty flavour that makes South Indian food so irresistible.
The quantity of garlic is not a typo. (Here’s my fav hack to always have fresh minced garlic on hand.) Neither is the quantity of chili powder. It sounds like a lot, but the bite of garlic and chili totally balance out the sweetness of the onions and ketchup. It’s not actually hot despite the 2 tsp of cayenne. My kids gobble it right up without flinching.
Here are some of my other favourite South Indian recipes:
Chicken 65 Curry
- 4 tbsp refined coconut oil (or any cooking oil)
- 2 medium onions finely chopped
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup packed curry leaves
- 3 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp packed finely grated or minced ginger (2 oz by weight)
- 2 tsp chili powder like cayenne or Indian chili powder
- 1 ½ cups ketchup
- 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into quarters
- 2-4 tbsp water as needed
- Heat oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for until soft and golden, about 10 minutes, reducing heat if needed to prevent burning before they're soft.
- Add curry leaves and stir to coat in oil. Cook 1-2 minutes, until they turn a shade darker and smell fragrant.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic and ginger; continue cooking for 2 minutes. Stir in cayenne and cook 30 seconds. Add ketchup and chicken, stirring to coat.
- Cover and cook on low for about 10 minutes to allow the chicken to release its moisture while cooking. Stir occasionally and add water if it is scorching.
- Once chicken is cooked through, uncover and simmer about 10-15 minutes to let the sauce thicken. The oil will shimmer on top of the curry when it is done.