Sri Lankan Devilled Chicken

Sweet, sour, devilishly hot but full of complex flavours. I ate quite a few of these in Sri Lanka and this one just about measures up. It took me quite a few goes to get it right because it’s all about the balance.

Try to find my choice of chilli and chilli and garlic sauce in your nearest Chinese supermarket or sub in your own favourite but make sure you taste the dish as you go as you don’t want to under or over-spice it. Pre-frying the chicken gives the dish a fantastic texture. Get the timing right so your onion retains a bit of bite whilst being palatably soft and don’t add the tomato too soon as it shouldn’t be mushy.

Judge the sauce so there’s enough to hold everything together without being sloppy.


  1. Marinade the chicken three hours before you want to cook (or even the night before).
  2. Lay the skinless breasts on a board. Using a sharp knife, cut them into equal size chunks – (about 2 cm across) then tip them into a bowl. Wash your hands before handling the spices.
  3. Sprinkle the marinade spices over the chicken. Add the lime juice. Stir to coat well. Cover the bowl and leave it to chill. Obviously the longer the time, the stronger the chilli taste.
  4. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking so it fries evenly.
  5. Fetch and prep all your other ingredients before you start to cook.
  6. Ginger and garlic: grate the ginger finely into a bowl. Crush in the garlic. Mix them together.
  7. Sit the onion on a vegetable cutting board. Cut it in two from root to tip. Strip the skin away. Sit the halves cut side down. Cut each in two. Slice into thick-ish rings.
  8. Wash and de-seed the red chili (or leave the seeds if you want searing heat). Dice it.
  9. Cut the tomato and lime into segments. Wash the rice in a sieve.
  10. Assemble your sauces. Put the water on to boil for the rice and add when appropriate.


  1. Fry the chicken pieces. Pour the sunflower or vegetable oil into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Check it’s no more than a third full as it will rise when you add the food. Heat the oil. You’ll know it’s ready to fry when a crumb of bread crisps to golden over a count of 1-10. Once you’re at that heat, keep it steady, reducing or increasing slightly as you’re cooking. Put a plate near the hob. Cover it with a piece of kitchen towel.
  2. Using tongs, add a few pieces of meat at a time. Fry them steadily for a few minutes (3-4) until cooked through. Test one with a sharp knife to check it’s white but juicy inside. Move to the plate to drain. Fry the rest in batches. Lightly salt the meat.
  3. To bring it all together: put a wok or large frying pan on the heat. Add 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil. When hot, add the garlic and ginger. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon so it doesn’t burn, cooking for a minute or so or until it starts to release its aroma.
  4. Add the chilli. Keep stirring. Add the onion. Shift and stir everything round the pan. You want the onion to cook but not to disintegrate. Add the sauces, vinegar and sugar. Keep stirring. As it comes together into a red sauce add the chicken pieces, the jalapenos and the tomato. Stir for a minute and when the meat is hot and coated, the tomato just softening, taste for balance. It should taste sweet, sour, hot, not to acidic. Add extra sugar or vinegar/lime if the balance is out. Add a bit more chilli sauce if you think it needs more heat. Remove from the heat. Let it rest for a minute. Sprinkle with diced green chilli.


  1. Drain your cooked rice. Pile it into 2 bowls. Spoon the chicken on top. Add a bit of lime.


Useful Cooking Information


Metric Imperial
10 g½ oz
20 g¾ oz
25 g1 oz
50 g2 oz
75 g3 oz
110 g4 oz
150 g5 oz
175 g6 oz
200 g7 oz
225 g8 oz
250 g9 oz
275 g10 oz
350 g12 oz
450 g1 lb
500 g (½ kg)18 oz
700 g1½ lb
900 g2 lb
1 kg2¼ lb
1.3 kg3 lb
1.8 kg4 lb
2.2 kg5 lb


Metric Imperial
50 ml2 fl oz
75 ml3 fl oz
100 ml3½ fl oz
125 ml4 fl oz
150 ml5 fl oz¼ pint
200 ml7 fl oz
250 ml9 fl oz
300 ml10 fl oz½ pint
425 ml15 fl oz¾ pint
600 ml20 fl oz1 pint
800 ml1½ pint
1 l1¾ pints
1.2 l2 pints
1.5 l2½ pints
1.8 l3 pints
2 l3½ pints


Metric Imperial
5 mm¼ inch
1 cm½ inch
2 cm¾ inch
2.5 cm1 inch
3 cm1¼ inches
4 cm1½ inches
5 cm2 inches
10 cm3 inches
15 cm4 inches
20.5 cm6 inches
23 cm9 inches
25 cm10 inches
30 cm12 inches

Spoon measures - mean level measures unless the recipe says 'heaped'

Eggs - are always large for baking, unless recipe says otherwise

Oven Temperatures

Gas °F °C
Mark 1275140

Fan assisted ovens - remember to reduce temperatures by 20°C

Most Useful US/European Conversions

ButterUS 1 cup / 2 sticks8 oz220 g
SugarUS 1 cup6 oz175 g
FlourUS 1 cup4 oz110 g
LiquidUS 1 cup8 fl oz225 ml
Prepped OnionsUS 1 cup4 oz110 g
Cheese, GratedUS 1 cup4 oz110 g
Diced FruitUS 1 cup5 oz150 g
Fresh BreadcrumbsUS 1 cup2 oz55 g

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