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.
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!.
- 4 lbs (1.8kg) bone in chicken thighs, fat trimmed
- 1/3 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
- 10 red jalapeno chilies
- 1 habanero pepper, optional
- 2 large onions, peeled
- 3-inch knob (2oz/55g) ginger, peeled
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.
Blend all spice paste ingredients with as little water as possible into a fine paste.
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.
Stir in potatoes. Sprinkle over mustard powder and chili pepper.
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.
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.
Serve with steamed rice.
So spicy yet so delicious! Give it a try! Incidentally, today January 16th is International Hot & Spicy Food Day…YAY!
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!