The Origins of Chicken 65
Chef Sanjay Thumma is delightfully unself-conscious. His shtick is equal parts hucksterism, infomercial (late-night cable variety), and home cooking show, the sloppy mise en place notwithstanding. (Seriously, chef, you need to measure out those half-teaspoons a little more carefully.)
Still, despite Thumma's used-car salesman persona, he seems to be on the mark about the origins of Chicken 65. Atul Bhola, owner of Masala Art in Tenleytown, where you can order the dish, told me the name comes from a restaurant in southern India where Chicken 65 was merely the (you guessed it) 65th item on a long list of chalkboard dishes.
The spicy fried chicken went viral in India, if you'll excuse the phrase, and its appearance on other menus under the name Chicken 65 is sort of an homage to the restaurant of origin. At least that's Bhola's take.
Thumma has a slightly different story. The manic chef says the dish came from a "military cantina" where it was listed as the 65th item on the menu. "That is all," Thumma says, as if we all had desperately clung to the many mythologies surrounding Chicken 65.
Whatever its origin, you should definitely check out the version at Masala Art, which I review this week in the Young & Hungry column. See a picture of Masala's Chicken 65 after the jump.