Kari Debal (Devil Curry)

Kari Debal (Devil Curry)Kari Debal or Devil Curry is the specialty of the Kristang people, the Portuguese Eurasian community in Malaysia and Singapore dating back to the Portuguese conquest of Malacca in 1511. There are all kinds of theories about the interesting name of this curry and most assumed that it has to do with its very spiciness. That notion is further reinforced by the fiery coloration of the curry coming from the grounded red chilies in the gravy.

Devil Curry is a mainstay of Christmas. As far as I can tell, it is usually cooked with chicken and potatoes. My dear friend, Denise of Singapore Shiok! who is Kristang shared an interesting insight into family traditions around this dish. Apparently in the old days, this curry was commonly prepared the day after Christmas with leftover meats from the holiday feast. As such, it may defer slightly in composition from family to family. Since it is greatly anticipated by everyone, the modern day practice is to cook it for the Christmas feast itself. Leftovers are simulated by marinating and precooking the meats before adding it to the curry.

Kari Debal (Devil Curry)

Fortunately for me, I did not have to wait until Christmas to taste this dish. During my visit back to Malaysia to see my parents last summer, I stopped by Singapore on my homeward journey. Denise had graciously invited me and another blogger friend, Shirley to her house for dinner. I spent a delightful and delicious day with both of them. Two of the dishes Denise made for dinner was this delicious Curry Devil and the renown Sugee Cake, both of which I have not eaten since my childhood. What a treat for me! Denise did kindly reduce the spiciness level for my sake. :)

I was anxious to cook this curry for the family when I got home. I have made it several times since as we thoroughly enjoy it. I did reduce the amount of spices used and substituted the bird’s eye chili with just one habanero pepper. I will tell you that my rendition is still pretty spicy but it is so shiok! Many thanks, Denise for this wonderful recipe!

The recipe below was adapted from Singapore Shiok!.

Kari Debal (Devil Curry)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6 servings
  • 4 lbs (1.8kg) bone in chicken thighs, fat trimmed
  • ⅓ cup (80ml) canola oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1-inch knob ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 5 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp Colman’s mustard powder
  • 1 tsp tsp red chili pepper
  • 1 packet (14 oz/396g) chicken or beef smokies (cocktail sausages)
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
Spice Paste
  • 10 red jalapeno chilies
  • 1 habanero pepper, optional
  • 2 large onions, peeled
  • 3-inch knob (2oz/55g) ginger, peeled
  1. Lightly sprinkle some salt and pepper onto chicken pieces. Place on a baking tray and roast in a 375°F (190°C) oven for 50 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  2. Blend all spice paste ingredients with as little water as possible into a fine paste.
  3. Heat canola oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add sliced onions and julienned ginger and fry till lightly brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add spice paste and continuously stir until fragrant and oil separates, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in potatoes. Sprinkle over mustard powder and chili pepper.
  5. Add chicken smokies and stir well to ensure they are well coated with spices. Pour in 2 cups (480ml) water, reduce heat, and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add sugar and salt followed by roast chicken pieces. Stir to get chicken coated with gravy. Allow it to simmer for another 10 minutes until chicken and potatoes are tender. Stir in vinegar and turn off heat.
  7. Serve with steamed rice.

Kari Debal (Devil Curry)

So spicy yet so delicious! Give it a try! Incidentally, today January 16th is International Hot & Spicy Food Day…YAY! 😀

Kari Debal (Devil Curry)

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎

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  1. says

    Ho ho ho!!! Merry… oops! LOL Sorry – got a bit confused 😉 Woweee! That’s a very pretty devil curry. You certainly have reduced the spice level, but it still looks very fiery! To be honest, your photos are making me crave it again 😀 Think I may cook this during the weekend. It’s been a hectic week, so I’ll reward myself with a pot of this and a few loaves of roti Perancis on Saturday :) Thanks so much for the shout out and for all the links!! Next time you’re in town you MUST teach me how to flute karipap, Ok?

    • Biren says

      This dish is still pretty spicy after reducing the spice level. I could probably up it a little but that would mean I will be the only one eating it. Yup, we can certainly flute karipap the next time I visit. I have not made it in ages.

  2. says

    I haven’t had those little smokies in ages! Bobby’s mom use to always have them and I loved them. I can see how they would be delicious in this curry. With the chicken, the smokies and the potatoes, this is definitely comfort food!!!

    • Biren says

      I know what you mean and it did strike me as odd too. However, it really is a very tasty especially if you like spicy dishes.

  3. Dongxing says

    Interesting! Now I know what devil curry is. I am bookmarking this to make one weekend. It looks really delicious.

    • Biren says

      If you like it spicy, this is the dish for you. definitely cook something else for the kids. I have already reduced the spice level considerably here and reducing it any further will make it lose its namesake.

    • Biren says

      As far as I know, this is dish is seldom found in restaurants but I am glad to hear you enjoyed the food in Malaysia. :)

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