All good recipes start with a story. This one is downright legendary, awash in myths and theories, becoming just a little bit more embellished with each retelling. Chicken 65 has enough allure without the fanfare, sticky red glaze gleaming as it catches the light, hugging the curves of each crispy morsel. Knowing where the name came from has zero impact on the dish which clearly speaks for itself, and yet it’s an obvious question that demands answers: Why 65?
Why is it called Chicken 65?
Was the chicken marinated for 65 days? Did the original dish include 65 pieces? Were there 65 chilies that went into that blisteringly spicy sauce? Maybe it was simply the item #65 on the menu for easy ordering? At this point, one could say it’s from the 65 different ways that people thought it came about!
Chicken 65 isn’t nearly as mysterious as the name might suggest. In fact, it’s well documented that it was invented by chefs at Buhari Hotel in 1965. Thus, the ’65 is merely paying homage to its date of birth. In case that very reasonable explanation disappoints you, don’t worry; this story is just getting started.
Hot enough to make you sweat on a brisk winter’s day, I’d equate it to the Indian version of Buffalo chicken. Though it packs a punch, the vivid red color imparts a more daunting appearance than punishing taste.
Given its great popularity over the years, chicken hasn’t been the only subject for this treatment. You can easily find shrimp 65, fish 65, mutton 65, paneer (cheese) 65, and gobi (cauliflower) 65 all across India. The next evolutionary step was obvious to me.
Why not try Mushroom 65?
The same treatment has been given to humble button mushrooms many times already, but I’d like to up the ante with shiitake. Far richer in umami flavor, denser for a firm, meaty bite, and without the bland watery texture of the average fungi, Sugimoto Shiitake, and particularly donko shiitake, are really the only ones up to the task. They straddle the line between the realms of plants and vegetables, giving the impression of a meaty morsel in a more earthy way. Besides, when everything can generally be said to “taste like chicken,” why bother the living birds in the first place?
Plunged into a heady marinade of vibrant spices immersed in a creamy yogurt base, the hydrated shiitake truly blossom to release their full umami potency. Absorbing that brilliant blend right into their core, each bite practically glows crimson after that luxurious bath. Still, there’s more flavor on the way to reinforce that solid foundation.
Lightly battered, fried to a crispy finish, and then tossed in even more tempered whole spices, the aromas are so heady that you can start to taste it before it even hits your tongue. One unique addition here is fresh curry leaves, which are sadly obscure in the US. Yes, there is in fact a curry plant, not just a mixture of spices or a dish called curry. It has an irreplaceable nuance that adds nutty, toasted notes with a hint of citrus, a hint of herbal yet floral flavor like Thai basil, with a tangy, tart finish. My best suggestion for a widely available alternative would be fresh bay leaves, but nothing can truly replace such a singular sensation.
If you like it hot, you’ll LOVE Mushroom 65. The key is starting with quality ingredients, as with any other carefully calibrated formula. Some can be adjusted, in the case of curry leaves, and heat can be dialed back for those with more meek palates, but one this is a non-negotiable: Sugimoto Shiitake are the only mushrooms for the job. One bite, and you’ll understand why.
Mushrooms and Marinade:
- 1 (2.47-Ounce) Package (Approximately 2 Cups Rehydrated) Sugimoto Donko Shiitake Mushrooms, Soaked Overnight
- 1/2 Cup Plain, Unsweetened Vegan Yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
- 2 Teaspoons Kasmiri Chili Powder (or Paprika)
- 1 Teaspoon Sweet Paprika
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
- 1 Teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Cup Chickpea Flour
- 2 Tablespoons Rice Flour
- Neutral Oil for Frying
- 2 Teaspoons Coconut Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Whole Mustard Seeds
- 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 Inch Fresh Ginger, Minced
- 2 Teaspoons Kasmiri Chili Powder
- 2 Jalapeno or Serrano Peppers, Seeded and Thinly Sliced
- 6 - 8 Fresh Curry Leaves or Bay Leaves
- 1/2 Teaspoon Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- Drain and reserve the soaking liquid from the mushrooms for another recipe. Slice them in half, keeping the stems intact.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, lime juice, kashmiri chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, ginger, garam masala, cumin, coriander, and salt. Once smooth, add in the halved mushrooms. Toss well to coat, making sure all the mushrooms are covered. Let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
- Once marinated, add the chickpea flour and rice flour and mix well to incorporate. It should create a thick batter that clings to the mushroom pieces, coating them well.
- To cook the mushrooms, heat about 2 inches of neutral vegetable oil in a medium saucepan with high sides. Once it reaches 350 degrees, carefully drop a few pieces in at a time. Fry for 2 - 3 minutes, until bright red and crispy all over. Use a strainer to remove the mushrooms and drain an a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until all the mushrooms are fried.
- Prepare the sauce by heating the coconut oil in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add the mustard seeds, garlic, ginger, peppers, sauteing for 1 - 2 minutes, until aromatic. Add the chili powder, curry leaves, sugar, and salt, cooking for another 30 seconds to combine. Finally, add the fried mushrooms, tossing to coat. Saute for 1 minute longer for the sauce to cover and infuse into all the pieces.
- Transfer to a platter and serve hot, alongside sliced red onions, lime wedges, and/or your favorite chutney, if desired.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 107Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 435mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 4g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.