Eurasians in Singapore
The term Eurasian refers to a person of mixed ancestry — born of a union between a European and an Asian.
Many Eurasians in Singapore can trace their roots to the sixteenth century when Portugal established a colony in Malacca. Catholic missionaries, the most notable being St. Francis Xavier, helped to spread the religious faith in the colony. Before long, the marriage between Portuguese men and local women of Chinese, Malay and Indian descent led to a thriving Eurasian community.
Later when the Dutch — followed by the British — arrived in Malacca, the Eurasian community expanded further. Today, Eurasians in Singapore have a multi-ethnic heritage which is reflected in their customs and traditions.
About Devil’s Curry
Curry Debal, more commonly known as Devil’s Curry, is easily one of the most popular dishes in the Eurasian repertoire. Debal means leftovers in Creole-Portugese and refers to the leftovers used after Christmas day to make this curry. However, not many understood what Debal meant and the term Devil’s Curry was soon coined to represent the spiciness and extensive use of chilli in the dish. Devil’s curry is best eaten the day after cooking when the ingredients have soaked well into the potatoes and chicken. It is best paired with rice but French bread works too.
In this story, we have two versions of Devil’s Curry: one shared by chef Quentin Pereira and the other, a heritage recipe from Charlotte Skelchy (our Chief Marketing Mummy Gidania’s mum).
Devil’s Curry (Chef’s Version)
From: Quentin Pereira, Head Chef at Quentin’s The Eurasian Restaurant
This recipe was passed down from Quentin’s grandmother:
1 Chicken about 1.5kg cut into pieces
4 Tablespoons light soy sauce
5 Tablespoons cooking oil
2 Tablespoons ground white pepper
1 Onion, peeled and halved; ½ thinly sliced and ½ quartered
3cm Ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
200g Bacon bones
1 Tablespoon mustard seeds, roughly pounded
½ Tablespoon salt
½ Tablespoon crushed chicken stock cube
2 Potatoes, peeled and quartered
10 Chicken cocktail sausages
½ head cabbage
1 Cucumber, peeled and cut into quarters lengthwise, soft centres removed and cut into 5cm lengths
5 Tablespoons white vinegar
6 to 8 red bird’s eye chillies
15 Peeled shallots
5 Large onions, peeled and sliced
10cm Ginger, peeled and sliced
10 Red chillies
50g Dried chillies, cut into short lengths, soaked for 10 minutes, seeds removed.
1.Season chicken with soy sauce and pepper and leave to marinate for 20 minutes.
2.Pound or grind together ingredients for ground paste until fine. Set aside.
3.Heat oil in a pot over medium heat and fry thinly sliced onion and ginger until light brown.
4.Add marinated chicken and bacon bones and continue frying until chicken changes colour.
5.Add ground paste, mustard seeds, salt and chicken stock and fry until oil rises.
6.Add potatoes, cocktail sausages and water. Boil until potatoes are soft and curry is thickened. This will take about 10 minutes on medium heat.
7.Add cabbage, cucumber and vinegar and mix well. Remove from heat
8.Dish out and serve hot, garnished with whole bird’s eye chillies
Note: this curry can be prepared days ahead without the vegetables and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Add the vegetables only when reheating to serve.
Devil’s Curry (Family Version)
From: Charlotte Skelchy
This recipe belongs to Charlotte’s grandmother who passed it down to her.
1 large chicken (cut into small portions)
20 shallots (peeled)
20 dried chillis (can be increased for added spiciness; stalks removed and washed with hot water)
6 whole candlenuts (buah keras)
2 tbs mustard seeds
2 cloves of garlic (sliced finely)
1 large onion (sliced)
1 piece of ginger (julienned)
1 small piece of turmeric
4 potatoes (peeled and cut in quarters)
A quarter cup of vinegar
3 to 4 cups of water
2 tbs sugar
3 tbs cooking oil
Salt to taste
1.Put the candlenuts, mustard seeds, shallots, dried chillies and turmeric in a blender with a little water. Blend well.
2.Heat oil in a large pan. Once hot, add in ginger strips, sliced onion and garlic. Fry till slightly brown and fragrant.
3.Add the blended ingredients into the pan and continue to stir-fry till mixture is almost cooked.
4.Put in chicken pieces and stir into curry mixture. Keep stirring till chicken starts to cook.
5.Add water and let the mixture come to a boil, stirring from time to time.
6.Once curry is on a steady boil, add salt, sugar and vinegar. Stir well again and add potato quarters.
7.Once chicken and potato are cooked, curry is completed.