[Penang, Malaysia] Devil's Curry at WTF Studios, Carnarvon Street

Lunch today at the new-ish WTF Studios, occupying the former premises of Narrow Marrow on Carnarvon Street. It just started its operations on 1 Jan 2021.

Here, owner Joshua Levi tapped into his Eurasian grandmother’s family heirloom recipe for the Devil’s Curry (or Curry Debal), which forms the basis for many of the dishes at this 1.5-month-old eatery. The task fell upon 24-year-old chef, Prabu Kalaivanan, to reproducing the Devil’s Curry according to Grandma Levi’s family heirloom recipe.

“Debal” is a Kristang-Creole word meaning ‘leftovers’ as this ultra-spicy traditional stew was cooked utilising Christmas roast leftovers in the olden days, with lots of chilis and vinegar thrown in - perhaps to also act as preservatives for the dish during pre-refrigeration times. In time, Kari Debal became the signature dish of Kristang/Eurasian cuisine, and its trademark chili-spiciness (plus some inadvertent mispronunciation early on) earned it the moniker Devil’s Curry, as it’s “hot as Hell”.

We opted for the Devil’s Feast lunch set for two

The set came with some chilled watermelon juice drinks - very handy to douse the ultra-spicy assault on our taste-buds which was to follow.

Started off with some golden-brown, crisp-fried Lucifer’s Balls, stuffed with devilled chicken and hellishly hot.

Crisp on the outside …

… deliciously moist inside.

Our main dish was, of course, Grandma Levi’s infernal Devil’s Curry, served alongside tiny cubes of pickled radish which provided a stab of sourness, and a creamy potato salad.

A meal here was like plumbing the depths of Dante’s Inferno - complex layers of flavors: the curious bitterness from the mustard seeds, a stab of sourness from the vinegar (early Portuguese-Eurasians here substituted vinegar for hard-to-procure Portuguese wine in their cooking - just like Goans did for vindaloo) and that ever-present, slow-burning heat from the copious amounts of chilis used.

We finished off with some refreshing Mexican Tepache (a kombucha-like fermented pineapple juice drink) which soothed our scalded tongues. Hell freezes over.

WTF Studios
252A, Lebuh Carnarvon, 10100 George Town, Penang
Tel: +6012-592 5616
Opening hours: 11am to 11pm daily, except Tuesdays (closed)



I thought you were still on lockdown there, Peter. Have restaurants still been allowed to open?

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There was a sudden change of heart by the Malaysian government just 2 days before the 1st day of Chinese New Year (which fell on 12 Feb 2021) - suddenly, the lockdown SOPs were loosened to allow dining-in at restaurants - but, subject strictly to a limit of two persons per table, irregardless of the size of the table (some rules here just doesn’t seem to make any sense, and left everyone confounded :joy:).

But, hey, we are not wasting any time in order to take advantage of this sudden window of opportunity to dine-out. Needless to say, it caught most restaurants by surprise, and many just weren’t ready to re-open so soon - some of them had even furloughed their staff, or else hadn’t had time to place orders with their suppliers.

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My guess is that it’s going to be May or June before places are opened up here - in spite of the industry lobbying for the government to open up quicker and reintroduce the “eat out to help out” supported discount scheme. Have to say I hope they do neither this time - relaxation in the summer had a direct adverse effect on the infection rate, with many places reporting their busiest ever days.