Chicken 65 with Tadka (AKA Spicy Aromatic Flavour Hit)

Take your Chicken 65 to the next level by tossing the crisp spicy pieces in a flavoursome oil or butter tadka.

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What is Chicken 65?

Chicken 65 is India’s version of Southern fried chicken, Korean fried chicken or Japan’s karaage chicken.

Pieces of chicken are marinated in a mixture of Indian flavours and spices, then deep fried until crispy and golden. And some versions then cook it in a spicy sauce as well.

You can learn more about the history of the dish on my ultimate guide to Chicken 65.

Chicken 65 with a difference

If you’re looking to make your Chicken 65 even more flavoursome, there’s a simple addition you can make that will take it to the next level.

Once it’s fried to perfection, toss it in a freshly cooked tadka.

Closeup of a tadka of onion, garlic and green chilies being fried and stirred with a large ladle.

What’s a tadka?

Most spices are used in the dried form, which gives better shelf life without losing too much flavour. It also means that the flavour is locked away inside the dried spices.

While grinding certainly helps release more flavour, there are a couple of features of many of the most common spices that can be used to extract even more flavour:

  • The flavours are volatile, meaning they easily evaporate into a vapour.
  • They are fat soluble, meaning that the flavours can be dissolved into a fat, like butter or cooking oil.

Because of their volatility, applying heat readily releases wonderful aromas that are key to the full experience of flavours.

And because they’re fat soluble, heating them in a fat infuses much of the amazing flavour into the oil itself.

A tadka takes advantage of both of these features of spices.

Also known as blooming, or tempering, the dried spices are heated in hot oil or other fat until they’re beautifully aromatic. This process adds infuses the fat with the flavours being heated, and also releases the aromas of the spices.

Using a tadka

Once the oil is infused with flavour, it can be added to another dish for an additional flavour boost.

Tadkas work well as a garnish, or incorporated into dishes like soups and stews.

Closeup of a white plate full of bright red dry Chicken 65, garnished with onion slices and cilantro.

Making your Chicken 65

Before you make your tadka, you need to prepare and cook your Chicken 65:

  1. Prepare a masala of red chili powder, turmeric, garlic, ginger and possibly more.
  2. Mix your masala with plain yogurt or lemon juice, cornstarch (corn flour) and egg.
  3. Marinate chopped boneless chicken thigh pieces in the mixture for at least an hour.
  4. Deep fry the chicken until crispy and cooked through.

If you’re interested you can read more detail on making dry Chicken 65 (without tadka or sauce), which is the foundation of any type of Chicken 65.

Tadka for Chicken 65

A tadka for Chicken 65 is remarkably simple. The recipes I reviewed consistently used several key ingredients:

  • Fresh green chili peppers, split open or sliced.
  • Curry leaves. More on these in a moment.
  • Sliced or crushed garlic.
  • Mustard seeds are also a common inclusion, used by half the authors.

Curry leaves are a unique ingredient that aren’t easily substituted. Belonging to the same family as citrus trees, the flavour of curry leaves is difficult to describe. Words like citrusy, nutty, aniseed and bitter are often used, but most agree it’s hard to pin down.

Fortunately they’re easier to find for sale than they used to be, especially dried. And if you can find them, they’re worth the effort for an authentic and more flavoursome Chicken 65.

Making a tadka

The process of making a tadka is quick and easy. The ingredients are simply sauteed in hot oil until fragrant.

Most authors suggest this will take between 30 seconds and a minute. They shouldn’t be cooked for long to ensure they don’t burn, especially the garlic. For best results, add your dried ingredients first, because they’ll take longer to release their flavours and are less likely to burn.

Using the tadka

Once the spices are aromatic, all that you need to do is toss your freshly fried Chicken 65 in the hot oil, together with the flavours. Once it’s well combined, you can serve it up!

Chicken 65 recipes

If you’re keen to try making a batch, you can find all the recipes I reviewed on my Chicken 65 Pinterest board.

I’ve also picked out a couple of my favourites (with a tadka) on my Chicken 65 recipes page.

Closeup of Chicken 65 pieces cooked in a tadka of oil, garlic and chili peppers.
Chicken 65 pieces tossed in a tadka of green chili peppers, chopped garlic and curry leaves.

Frequently asked questions about Chicken 65 tadka

What is a tadka?

A tadka is fat (like oil or clarified butter) infused with spices and other aromatic ingredients. It’s used to add flavour to a dish.

What’s in a tadka for Chicken 65?

The most common ingredients are green chili peppers, curry leaves, fresh garlic and mustard seeds.

How do you make a tadka?

Simply saute the ingredients in hot oil or ghee (clarified butter). Add dry ingredients first as they’ll take longer to temper.

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