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Revealing The Making and Secrets of the Portuguese Devil Curry

When I was a wheee hee hee young girl in college, I heard so much about the Portuguese Devil Curry. It sounded like it was the stuff dreams are made of so I committed to trying it by making a trip to Malacca - somewhere I considered to be the epicenter of this famed curry.

In a humble stall at the Portuguese Settlement, I ordered my first Devil Curry and paired the fiery dish with a bottle of Guinness. It was a euphoric meal, full of strange and unknown tastes assaulting my senses. The Chilli Vampire has been awakened.

Ever since then, I have gone on to discover the beauty of Guinness on tap, but never have I ever, tasted another Devil Curry quite like the first I had in Malacca.

Through the years I have made many failed attempts at the Devil Curry. They were either bitter, weird, bland or tasty but mutated into a different curry.

Then today, everything just clicked. I unlocked the mystery that eluded me for years...and I am ecstatic, can you hear my happy squeeal??!? Listen to me. Anyone can give you the list of ingredients but that doesn't mean you can recreate the dish, because the secret is not in the ingredients. It's in the technique. Ever since I've started compiling a list of spice combinations, I have learned to combine and cook certain ingredients in stages and to pinpoint anchor and supporting ingredients. So that was basically how I unlocked the mystery..ok I tengah on to the reveal!

The Secrets to Cooking Devil Curry

1. Separate the paste into two parts.

Part One: The Sambal

Part Two: The Galangal Mix

2. This dish's anchors are chilli paste and galangal

And that's it really...It's an easy curry to cook. I'll show you.

Part One: The Sambal

Devil Curry

Flavour the Oil

  • Render chicken fat in the wok, then remove the evidence

  • Put your hand over the wok to feel the heat. It should be medium heat. Get your mustard seeds and lemongrass ready

  • Put a handful of mustard seeds into the wok. As soon as they bubble, before they sputter, throw the lemongrass stalks in (this technique is relevant for induction cooker) WHY: By the time the mustard seeds sputter, the heat would have escalated too quickly, causing the seeds to burn and turn bitter. Adding lemongrass immediately when the seeds bubble help temper the heat

  • Keep stirring the lemongrass stalks in the liquefied chicken fat. It is important that the stalks are bruised beforehand to release the oils and fragrance

  • After a minute, add chilli paste.

Devil Curry

  • Since I like my Devil Curry to taste volcanic, I grounded a large fistful of dried chillies. Normal recipe calls for 15 pcs, but that's too little for me. It wouldn't have the fragrance and colour in my opinion.

  • As the paste reduces, add about 2 tsp of sugar. Keep repeating the process of reduction and adding water slowly. You will notice that the paste starts to glisten and take on a smooth texture

  • I'm not gonna lie, this stage will take some time, in the region of 20 mins. It's a process of adding water ssssloowwwly to the caramelizing chilli paste.

  • Also, add about 1 tsp of cili boh into the paste. Original recipe calls for shrimp paste, but this should be an easy and good substitute

  • Once you have achieved the taste and consistency of the sambal, you can move on to the next stage. You have passed the trickiest part.

Part Two: The Galangal Mix

Devil Curry

Adjusting taste levels

  • Add Galangal/Onion/Ginger/Mustard Seeds/Candlenuts paste

  • Keep folding the Galangal paste into the sambal and let the heat work

  • After a 5-10 minutes of folding, taste the paste. Now it's time to adjust the levels

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric paste. It should be enough

  • Once you are happy, move on to adding vinegar. The objective of vinegar here is not to make it sour. Rather, it is meant to balance and accentuate the sweetness and pungency of the paste. I'm happy with 2 tsp of white vinegar. If you want to exercise caution, add it in small parts and keep tasting

  • You will probably feel that something is still missing. Now, is the time to add garlic powder. Original recipes call for garlic cloves to be grounded with the chilli paste. But I find that it's best to add the garlic powder later because I have better control of the taste balance

Devil Curry
  • Add sweet paprika if you like your paste RED

  • Add two generous pinches of sea salt

Devil Curry
  • Now add chicken once you're happy with the paste. Add a bowl of water and close the wok lid

  • Every 5 minutes, give the curry a bit of a stir and add a little bit of water

So this is my Red Hot Valentine's gift to my husband ^^


I love sharing my recipes and my oftentimes long-winded cooking process. I've made countless mistakes and I just think it's a shame that many may be repeating them.

Let me know if this recipe works for you and please hit Share if you think your friends can benefit from this. Bon appetit!

Recipe serves 6

List of Ingredients:


Chicken - 3 chicken legs

Marinade in salt, a bit turmeric (enough to coat a thin layer of yellow) and sweet paprika

To Flavour Oil:

Mustard Seeds - 1 palmful

Bruised Lemongrass - 3 stalks

Sambal Paste:

Dried Chillies - 1 large fistful (deseed to relief heat)

Cili Boh - 1 tsp or freshly grounded dried shrimps

Sugar - 2 tsp

Galangal Paste:

Galangal - 1 large galangal or equivalent to a large fistful of chopped galangal

White Onion - 3

Ginger Paste - 1 tsp

Mustard Seeds - 1 palmful

Candlenuts - 6

Sea Salt - 2 generous pinches

Taste Balancing:

Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp

White Vinegar - 2 tsp

Garlic Powder - 1 tsp

Sweet Paprika (shower as you please to adjust colour)

#devilcurry #PortugueseDevilCurry #chickencurryrecipe #devilchickencurryrecipe #Malacca

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