Also known as Curry Debal, Devil Curry, for many, this is the dish that springs to mind when you mention Eurasian cuisine. Eurasian, as its name implies, is a mix of European and Asian. Generally speaking, in Singapore and Malaysia, Eurasian food is a mix of Asian food with a strong Portuguese influence, although the term Eurasian was initially coined for Anglo Indians in the time of the British Raj in India. These days, with the countless intermarriages, the term encompasses all manner of Caucasian heritage. Here, in the UK, my kids are English, as my husband is English, but were they to live in Singapore, they’d be called Eurasians! Go figure!
Devil Curry – Fire? That’s exactly what this is, very spicy and sharp with a slight tang because of the vinegar. The Devil Curry, like a few other Eurasian dishes I cook was taught me by an ex boyfriend’s mum, who was very traditional in her ways and would regularly speak Kristao (Kristang), the Eurasian Creole Portuguese.
Traditionally, this was made on Boxing Day with the leftover roast but many families in Singapore and Malaysia who don’t do roast for Christmas, make this with fresh chicken and sausages. Usually, this is served with plain boiled rice but growing up in Singapore, I attended many informal, buffet style parties where it was served with French Baguette. Baguettes, to me, have a very special relationship with curries!
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. Quite often, it’s also enriched with ground candlenuts. Each family will have its own recipe, claiming it to be the original – go figure! A good Devil Curry will always have that smoky (from sausages), slightly tangy (from vinegar), and very spicy character. Over the years, I have of course made this recipe my own, not least in the amount of heat it packs! However, I still make mine fairly hot, the sort that makes you pause but still allows you to have a normal conversation! Please halve the chillies and pepper, if you’re not sure, the first time!
I like to use fresh as well as dried chillies, but use either if you prefer.
This recipe is with chicken and sausages as it’s usually made.
VEGETARIANS, you can use Quorn pieces with vegetarian sausages (smoky sort if you can get them) or even boiled eggs, tofu and/or an assortment of vegetables. I’ve made this with seafood, with and without a little smoked fish. Just salmon fillets are also perfect.
I like to use a whole chicken for this, because that’s how I used to make it and I like the depth of flavour the bones add to the dish. If you’d like to use portions, I suggest a mix of breast and thigh, always with bone in.
- 500g chicken
- 4 smoked sausages, cut to about 2"/4cm pieces
- 2 onions, quartered
- 1 tsp crushed black pepper
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar (or clear malt)
- 2 tsp thick soy sauce
- quarter tsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp tomato paste/puree
- 2 tsp mustard
- half - one tsp salt, to taste
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 300-500mls water (depends on how wet you want the curry to be)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium sized onions
- 6 garlic cloves
- half in/1cm fresh turmeric or half tsp powder
- 1 in/2cm ginger
- 5 dried red chillies and 2 fresh red ones
- Coat the chicken with the soy sauce and vinegar and set aside while you get everything else ready.
- Using a pair of scissors, cut up the dried chillies and soak them for about 15 minutes.
- Grind all paste ingredients, starting with the chillies.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute 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.
- Cook for 30 minutes until chicken is cooked, depending on size and what portions you’re using.
- Add the quartered onion and sausages and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Check the seasoning, add more salt if necessary.
Serve with plain boiled rice or some crusty/French baguette.