Devil Curry, also known as Curry Debal, is a spicy, smoky and tangy chicken curry that for many in Singapore and Malaysia, is the dish that springs to mind when you mention Eurasian recipes.
First published 2012. Updated Nov. 2019.
What does Eurasian mean?
The word Eurasian, as its name implies, is a mix of European and Asian. The term was initially coined for Anglo Indians in the time of the British Raj in India. However, these days, with the countless intermarriages, the term encompasses all manner of mixed Caucasian and Asian heritage.
When it comes to traditional Eurasian food, in Singapore and Malaysia, we are talking about Asian food with a strong Portuguese influence. Our Devil Curry today, is a good example.
You can read more about the Eurasians and the other ethnic mixes on the Singapore and Malaysia page.
What is Devil Curry or Curry Debal?
Devil, as in the Fires of Hell! That’s exactly what Curry Devil is, and it is meant to be very spicy!
The Eurasian Devil Curry traces its origins back to Malacca, in Malaysia, to the time of the Portuguese occupation in the early 16th century. This Portuguese influence and consequent intermarriages is probably the biggest European influence still felt in the 2 countries, after the British.
In Malacca, the Portuguese heritage reigns supreme. You can read more about Malacca and its rather quirky character, here.
Traditionally, Devil Curry was made on Boxing Day, with leftover roast, sausages and sometimes, potatoes.
However, many families in Singapore and Malaysia who don’t do roast for Christmas, make this with fresh chicken and sausages, and it is served on Christmas Day itself.
Curry Debal is usually served with plain boiled rice. But growing up in Singapore and Malaysia, I can tell you that many informal, buffet style parties would have rice and French baguette. Whatever curry was on the table, in fact – Eurasian, Indian, Malay or Nyonya! (You know the drill: find out more on the Singapore and Malaysia page).
Baguettes, to me, have a very special relationship with curries!
Authentic Devil Curry
Despite claims to the contrary, there is no single or original Devil Curry recipe. There are, in fact, many, many variations of it:
- some with cabbage and cucumber
- some with potatoes
- some tomato-ey
- and some with more local spices than others
- More often than not, it’s also enriched with ground candlenuts (click to read more)
Each family will have its own recipe, always claiming it to be the original!
Is Devil Curry a Malaysian Chicken Curry?
Yes, of course, just as it is also a Singaporean Chicken Curry. Singapore and Malaysia have a very similar racial make up and share great similarities in food. They were the same country once upon a time, after all.
How to make Devil Curry?
It’s super easy.
- We lightly marinate the chicken
- Grind the aromatics
- Cook the curry!
What’d I tell ya?
What does Devil Curry taste like?
A good Devil Curry will always have the following flavours/aroma:
- smoky from sausages
- slightly tangy from vinegar
- very spicy from chillies (which can be reduced to suit tastes)
So don’t fret, reduce the chillies and pepper if you’re not keen on spicy. I do, for the kids.
When to make Devil Curry?
Anytime you fancy it! As I mentioned above, traditionally, this was made with leftover meats, sausages and potatoes on Boxing Day. However, with time, the Eurasians got more “Asian” in their habits, and roast turkey was no longer the Christmas main meal.
The Devil Curry has long been the star of the show on Christmas day for many Eurasian families in Singapore and Malaysia.
How to cook Devil Curry Recipe your way?
- Make it as spicy or as mild as you want it to be.
- Add some potatoes and 2 chopped up tomatoes (I do this sometimes, depending on my mood). Bear in mind that potatoes will absorb water as they cook, and you may need to add more water and more salt, if you don’t like a curry that’s too dry.
- I love onions, and love them partially cooked in curries, as an addition, almost like adding vegetables to curries. You can cut down on the number at the end (not for the paste). Or you can cook them longer, adding them with the chicken.
- You can lightly brown the sausages before adding them to the curry. Just fry them for about 30 seconds each side on high heat, then add to the curry, along with any fat and juices.
- Not so keen on that fat swimming at the top (mostly from the chicken)? Just spoon it off. This is something I always do.
Vegetarian Devil Curry (or Vegan Devil Curry)
There are so many ways to make a vegetarian curry with this. Or vegan. The bottom line is, once you leave the meat out, there is nothing in there that is non vegan friendly. Here are some of the ingredients to use:
- boiled eggs (vegetarian)
- smoky vegetarian sausages (to maintain the smoky flavour)
- green beans
- aubergines (eggplants)
- capsicums (bell peppers)
- courgettes (zucchinis)
- beans like kidney, haricot, etc
What Chicken to use for Devil Curry?
I love to use a either a whole chicken (chopped up) for this, or a mix of chicken portions like thighs, breasts and drumsticks. You know curries and stews are always best made with some meat that is on the bone, for a deeper flavour. Don’t ya? This recipe is with chicken and sausages, as it’s usually made.
Chillies in Curry Debal
You’ll notice that I’ve gone with both fresh and dried chillies. It’s all about balance; I love the freshness and fruitiness of the fresh chillies in our Devil Curry, and the depth that the dried chillies give.
As mentioned above, reduce the number of chillies to reduce the spiciness of the curry.
Dark Soy Sauce
Dark soy sauce is fermented for a longer period and generally has molasses or a similarly sweet ingredient added to it. It has a sweet and salty taste to it, is darker in appearance and has a richer texture than the light salty one that’s more commonly known in the West. Click here to read more about different soy sauces.
We’re done with the technicalities, methinks. Got a question? Just drop me a line below, or shoot me an email!
In the meantime, shall we get our aprons on?
More Eurasian Food On LinsFood:
Just head on over to the Singapore and Malaysia page for more Eurasian recipes like:
More Christmas Recipes
And if you fancy more Christmas recipes, you’ll find them on the Christmas page. With recipes from all over the world, you’re going to be spoilt for choice!
♥ If you like the recipe, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! 😉 Thank you! ♥
And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood
Devil Curry Recipe (Curry Debal) – a Spicy Eurasian Christmas Curry
Devil Curry, or Curry Debal, is a spicy, smoky and tangy chicken curry that is a must on Christmas Day for the Eurasians in Singapore and Malaysia.
- 1 kg (2.2 lb) mixed, on-the-bone chicken portions
- 2 tsp dark soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar, or any clear vinegar
- 4 smoked sausages
- 2 large white/brown onions (not red), quartered
- 1 tsp crushed black pepper
- 1/4 tsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp concentrated tomato paste (also called tomato purée)
- 2 tsp mustard (English or Dijon, doesn’t matter)
- 1 tsp salt, to taste
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 375ml (1 1/2 cups) water (or less, depends on how wet you want the curry to be)
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 10 dried red chillies
- 3 fresh red chillies
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2.5cm (1′) fresh ginger
- 2 medium white/brown onions
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- Coat the chicken with the soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and set aside while you get everything else ready.
- Using a pair of scissors, cut up the dried chillies (to be ground) and soak them for 15 minutes.
- Cut up the sausages to about 5cm (2″) pieces.
- Quarter all the onions in the recipe, including the ones to be ground. Keep the 2 lots of onions separately.
- Cut up the fresh chillies into 3 pieces for easier grinding.
- Halve the garlic and ginger.
- Drain the soaking chillies, give them a quick rinse and place in the chopper, along with the fresh chillies. Grind for 10 seconds. crape down the sides, add 1/4 onion and grind for another 10 seconds. The onion will add moisture and make sure it’s not too dry.
- Add the garlic and ginger to the chopper, plus another 1/4 onion. Grind for another 30 seconds, scraping down halfway.
- Add the onions and turmeric and grind for 60 seconds to get a fairly smooth paste, scraping down the sides once or twice in that time. Doing the paste ingredients in this order gives the more fibrous ingredients a longer time to be chopped up.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté ground ingredients for about 2 minutes on medium heat.
- Add the chicken and coat well.
- Add the pepper, worcestershire sauce, tomato puree, mustard, salt, sugar and water and let everything come to boil.
- Turn the heat down to low, and simmer, half covered with a lid, for 30-45 minutes until the chicken is cooked, depending on size and what portions you’re using. Chicken legs will need 45 minutes.
- Add the quartered onion and sausages and cook for about 10 minutes. Add a little more water if you prefer a wetter curry, and especially if you are using potatoes.
- Check the seasoning, add more salt if necessary.
- Turn the heat off and gently stir in the 3rd tablespoon of vinegar. Serve as suggested.
|Amount Per Serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 25.94 g||39.9%|
|Saturated Fat 6.66 g||33.3%|
|Trans Fat 0.16 g|
|Cholesterol 102.5 mg||34.2%|
|Sodium 576.48 mg||24%|
|Total Carbohydrate 16.69 g||5.6%|
|Dietary Fiber 2.6 g||10.4%|
|Sugars 8.48 g|
|Protein 27.75 g|
|Vitamin A 10.04 %||Vitamin C 125.46 %|
|Calcium 5.03 %||Iron 14.05 %|
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
LinsFood | by Azlin Bloor