Curry Debal

This Malaysian curry has the devil in the details.
Curry Debal

Curry Debal

by Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime

Curry Debal. I first met this interesting curry a number of years ago now when a friend from Singapore shared a recipe for it with me. Well of course I had to try it.  I had kind of a reputation going for loving spicy Asian food and curry. From that point, I had only tried Indian style curry, Thai style curries and an occasional Chinese curry stir-fry.

The name itself means “Curry Devil” and it has origins in the Kristang culture of Malaysia, descended from both Portuguese and Malaccan peoples, and is generally prepared for celebrations such as weddings and Christmas. Of course, the name being what it is, food lovers everywhere can enjoy this interesting curry anytime, especially when they want a warming food, and perhaps moreso, when they want something to spark conversation at the table, as this Curry Devil surely will. And what more suitable conversation for the chilly days before Halloween than the Devil?

Curry Paste Ingredients
Curry Paste Ingredients

There can be a lot of debate surrounding the origin of the name. My personal version is that it stems from the possible use of peppers that may well date  back to the Portuguese spice traders who propagated the piri piri pepper from it’s origins in Chile (South America) throughout Africa where it developed into the piri piri (African Red Devil pepper) in the dark continent, and further to the east, where it gained foothold as the Thai bird chili. It’s hard to say which pepper actually became some of these hot ones, but the frutescens chiles include such famous peppers as cayenne, Tabasco and the ones I already mentioned, and their use exploded in popularity after being brought back from the new world.

The curry is usually made with an astonishing paste often made from fresh ingredients such as turmeric root and hot peppers along with other spices. To that it usually has chicken and potatoes and the sky is the limit from there, with as any variations to the recipe as there are cooks. The recipe I first tried comes from Chef Violet Oon and included things such as pineapple, ribs, and Vienna sausages. It’s an interesting mix, and the flavors of it improve upon reheating the next day (it did make quite a lot) and the recipe I share with you today will  give nods in her favor, rather than being like some recipes I have seen which only include chicken. So add and take out what you like, as it is forgiving, except do try to keep the curry paste components in there to give the best flavor, using fresh ingredients whenever possible.

Blended Curry Paste
Blended Curry Paste

Some people say this curry is a bit like Chicken Rendang, but I have to point out that it has a couple similarities to Vindaloo chicken, a Goan curry, as well. And there are versions of Devil Curry in India, as cuisine has propagated itself across the region with the movement of people. But in my opinion, while Rendang has good characteristics of an Indonesian curry,  except that both are curries, the two depart ways from there with one of the biggest differences in that curry debal does not use coconut milk, or coconut of any kind (although I suppose someone somewhere does…)

I have toned down the spice level in this curry as I doubt many people would enjoy the spice level that the title “Devil” might suggest. I hope it doesn’t disappoint anyone. But chile lovers can always garnish their serving with thinly sliced Thai chiles until  their tongues catch on fire,  or add a nice dallop of sambal chile paste or Sriracha sauce at the table to their taste.

Curry Ready to Simmer
Curry Ready to Simmer

You can eat this by itself, like a stew. Or as I like to serve it in bowls with a scoop of steamed white jasmine rice at the bottom (they way I like my Thai curries) with lots of sauce for the rice to soak up. Either way is fine.

The ingredients may seem long, but really not more work than chopping stuff for a good stew. The sauce is simple, and the curry paste is easy to do in a food processor. A word on that though, because of the turmeric. Use fresh turmeric if you can. Don’t be tempted to put it in the food processor instead of grating by hand. It stains terribly and will stain plastic bowls in just a few minutes. I grate it onto plastic and shake it into the pot so it doesn’t touch anything. You can opt to use turmeric powder, about 1-1/2 teaspoons, but add that to the pot as well, not letting it touch a food processor bowl. Nobody likes their bowls turning yellow.  ‘Nuff said.

Curry Almost Done
Curry Almost Done

About the riblets, those are thin strips of ribs about an inch wide.  I have seen  them marked as rib tips although rib tips aren’t the same as these. If you can’t find the narrow riblets, ask your butcher to cut some baby backs into narrow pieces. Trying to hack them at home is annoying and often  you get bits of bone shards into the meat instead of nice slices. Butchers are nice. They will do this.
Curry Debal for #SundaySupper

Curry Debal

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Curry Debal
Curry Paste Ingredients:

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, light green and white parts only, chopped into manageable size for grinding
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 3 fresh Thai chiles or other hot red chiles
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/4 cup cold water


  • 1 inch piece fresh turmeric, grated finely with microplane grater onto plastic wrap
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (peanut oil or coconut oil is fine)
  • 1  pound chicken wing drummettes
  • 1 pound pork riblets, cut into short sections
  • 1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion,  cut into chunks
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh green cabbage (about one fourth of a small head), cut into chunks
  • 1 pound small white potatoes, quartered
  • 2 pairs (4 separated) fresh Thai lime leaves
  • 8 ounces fresh pineapple chunks
  • 5-6 ounces Vienna sausages (can use mini franks or 2-3 hot dogs, both without casings; chop hot dogs if using)
  • 10-12 ounces fresh small tomato wedges (Roma is a good choice)
  • 4 fresh Thai chilles (2 red, 2 green) split along the length but left uncut at the stem

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar  or white wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dark sweet soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 3 cups water


  1. Place the ingredients except the water into a bowl of your food processor and run until it becomes thick and pasty, adding water through the chute until it becomes fairly smooth. Don’t add turmeric to your processor bowl.
  2. Grate the turmeric root onto a small piece of plastic wrap to keep it from staining anything.
  3. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or deep skillet; add the spice paste and shake the grated turmeric into the pan. Cook, stirring, a few minutes until it dries out somewhat and sizzles; add the chicken drummettes and riblets and cook until browned, 5 or 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the carrots, onions, sauce along with the 3 cups water  and the lime leaves.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for thirty minutes.
  6. Stir in the potatoes and place the cabbage right on top, along with the whole split peppers. 
  7. Cover and continue simmering for another 15 minutes.
  8. Add the Vienna sausages, poking them down  into the liquid, then just place the pineapple and tomatoes on the top.
  9. Cover and continue simmering for 10 minutes more.
  10. Serve hot with a little steamed jasmine rice, if desired. And anyone who likes it really fiery can add slices of pepper or hot sauce to their plate/bowl.

From the kitchen of

Curry Debal
Sunday Supper Movement

Warming Trends! Soups, stews, warm desserts and drinks.

What keeps you warm when the weather cools?

As part of the Sunday Supper Movement, I and a host of other food bloggers are pleased to present to you some of our favorite recipes for chasing off the chill when the weather cools.
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Main Dishes and Soups

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20 responses

    • Some of the ingredients seemed weird to me the first time I made it, but it does work in an almost unexpected way. It is my favorite curry in the world. Well, maybe vindaloo ties it. Or butter chicken. Or red Thai shrimp curry. I’m hopeless! LOL!

  1. Look at those peppers! Such an interesting sounding curry. Thanks for the tips about the food processor. I am pretty sure mine is permanently stained due to long term use with turmeric and other spices.

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