Would You Eat A Devil Curry? A Malay Dish Inspired By Vindaloo
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Food is often a marker of history and Eurasian food is the perfect example of this phenomenon. The cuisine bears markers from many of the rulers that passed through the country over the years. One of the major influences that came from the Portuguese era and the Kristang cuisine of Malaysian is a fusion of Southeast Asian flavours meeting western-style cooking methods inherited from Portuguese colonists. 

As a result of this Portuguese rule, a vast number of the Kristang community practice Christianity and Christmas is one of the most celebrated festivals of the year. There are lots of traditional dishes that accompany the season but one of the most beloved is the fiery Debal Curry. Although it comes from the Kristang word ‘debal’ meaning leftovers, it’s also sometimes referred to as Devil’s curry and while it was traditionally made on Boxing Day with leftovers from the Christmas feast, it became so popular that it’s now served all year round. 

Its roots can be traced back to the Goan dish Vindahlo, (or Vindaloo) which was in turn a Portuguese addition to Indian cuisine. It was originally made with pork but Malayasia’s strict Halal traditions meant that many people opt for chicken instead. Like Vindaloo it uses a base of vinegar, potatoes, onions and chillies for flavour, and then local additions like lemongrass, galangal, candlenuts and turmeric give it a unique spin. 

No Kristang Christmas is complete without this red hot curry on the table and its usually served with rice or traditional bread for a complete meal. 


Debal Curry:

  • 750 gm chicken
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar or any clear vinegar
  • 4 sausages, halved 
  • 2 large brown onions not red, quartered
  • 1 tsp crushed black pepper
  • ¼ 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
  • 375 ml water
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Spice Paste:

  • 10 dried red chillies
  • 3 fresh red chillies
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2.5 cm fresh ginger
  • 2 medium white/brown onions
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder


  • Coat the chicken with soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.
  • Cut up the green chillies and soak the dried chillies in water for 15 minutes. 
  • Quarter the onions and separate some for grinding in the spice paste.
  • Peel the garlic and ginger.
  • Add all the ingredients for the spice paste to a mixer and grind to a fine texture.
  • 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 the ground ingredients for about 2 minutes on medium heat.
  • Add the chicken and mix well.
  • Add the pepper, Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree, mustard, salt, sugar and water and let everything come to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down to low, and simmer, half-covered with a lid, for 30-45 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
  • Cut up the sausages into pieces and add them along with the remaining onions. 
  • Check the seasoning, and add more salt if necessary.
  • Turn the heat off and gently stir in the 3rd tablespoon of vinegar.
  • Cook for 10 minutes on low heat and serve with rice or breads.