Recipe: Damian D'Silva's Debal

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The dish is a classic in Singapore's Eurasian cuisine, which first developed in the 19th century when Dutch, British, and Portuguese traders began migrating to Singapore and marrying into local families.

Serves six
    • 6 Bombay onions (red onions can be substituted), peeled and quartered
    • 2 cups vegetable oil
    • 100 grams old ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (Note: This is the more wizened ginger, which has a more intense flavor)
    • 50 grams dried chilis, soaked in hot water for half an hour until they're softened
    • 600 grams shallots
    • 80 grams young ginger, peeled and julienned
    • 6 large potatoes or 12 small potatoes. If using large potatoes, peel and halve them. If using small potatoes, just peel them.
    • 6 TB vinegar
    • 1 TB dried English mustard (Colman's is his preferred brand)
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 kilograms uncooked pork ribs
    • 400 grams of cooked ham, cut into large cubes or thick strips
    • 800 grams of roast pork, cut into large cubes or thick strips

Note: You can substitute any other varieties of cooked meats from Christmas Day for the ham and pork. Debal can be made with roast goose, turkey or beef, for example.

Pulse the old ginger, softened, dried chilis and shallots in a food processor or blender until a thick red paste forms. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large wok over medium heat and fry the onions until they're very soft. This can take 30 to 45 minutes--stir constantly. Add the red paste to the softened onions and stir until well mixed, cooking for 20 minutes.

Add pork ribs and julienned young ginger. Stir well, cooking 20 minutes.

Add potatoes and stir--15 minutes later, add 1/2 a cup of water, then stir for five more minutes. Then, add the ham and roast pork and stir, cooking for another 15 minutes. Stir in vinegar and mustard, mix well and set aside for several hours or overnight before eating. The flavors will intensify over time.

Serve debal with rice.

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Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is a New York-based food and fashion writer. She is the author of the recently released A Tiger In The Kitchen, a food memoir about learning about her family in Singapore by cooking with them.

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