Asian Recipes/ Curry/ Recipes/ Side Dish

Deviled Potatoes – Sri Lankan Potato Fry (Ala Thel Dala)

30/09/2020 (Last Updated: 14/10/2020)

With a big flavour punch, this Sri Lankan dry potato curry is no ordinary side dish! Also known as Ala Thel Dala or deviled potatoes, fry these simple spicy potatoes in just 20 minutes.

A bowl of spicy potatoes garnished with curry leaves and fresh chilli.

Why We Love This

These mouthwatering spicy potatoes (Ala Thel Dala) are boiled and fried to perfection, making them soft on the inside, yet firm enough so they don’t just fall apart into mash.

This dry potato curry is such a versatile dish you can serve on it’s own or as a side dish for homemade curries. Double or quadruple the recipe and use the leftovers as a tasty filling for savoury pastries, curry puffs or creative leftover lunches. It’s also vegan and vegetarian friendly.

This recipe is so easy to adapt – whether you want to make it a full meal or tweak the cooking method – see our variations section below for more delicious ideas!

A colourful bowl of spicy potatoes cooked with caramelised onion and curry leaves, next to fresh spices.

What is Ala Thel Dala? 

Ala Thel Dala means “potatoes fried in oil” in Sinhalese, but this recipe also goes by so many other names. Sri Lankan deviled potatoes (also spelled devilled potatoes), curried potatoes, spicy potatoes, tempered potatoes, dry potato curry – the list goes on!

Whatever you call them, the dish starts from a base of parboiled potatoes that are fried in an aromatic blend of warming spices. Curry leaves add a savoury earthiness, balanced by sweetly caramelised onion and pops of flavour from the mustard seeds.

Sri Lankan style deviled potatoes have a much different texture and flavour to other deviled potato recipes, where the soft potato is scooped out of the skins, mashed and seasoned, then stuffed back in. This makes them much more suited to being a side dish or full meal rather than as an appetiser.

Where We Learned This Recipe

Just like our recipes for Indonesian Corn Fritters and Pumpkin Miso Soup, we learned to make Sri Lankan Deviled Potatoes with our friend Yuko in Japan. She taught us the recipe just as she learned it from her Sri Lankan partner.

One day we met up with a group of Indonesian and Japanese friends for a multicultural feast in Kagoshima. Served alongside platters of homemade corn fritters, pork skewers and spicy boiled eggs, Yuko’s deviled potatoes were a total hit!

What You’ll Need

  • Potatoes – You can use any kind of potato for this recipe. We usually use kestrel potatoes, which are bright and colourful with a super creamy texture once cooked.
  • Curry Leaves – You can buy fresh curry leaves from supermarkets or grocers. While it’s possible to source dried curry leaves online, the flavour won’t be as strong or as fresh. Please don’t be tempted to substitute fresh curry leaves for curry powder. The two are definitely not the same and the flavour is a total contrast – curry powder is actually a blend of powdered spices including cumin, turmeric, coriander, fenugreek leaves and chilli. If you can’t source curry leaves, you could try substituting with other herbs like basil, lemon basil or kaffir lime leaves. The flavour won’t be the same, but they’ll still help to bring your dish to life.
  • Spices – This recipe uses of a fragrant blend of chilli powder, black mustard seeds and turmeric powder which gives the potatoes such a wonderful flavour and golden colour. Thankfully, you should have no trouble finding all of these at a supermarket, import store or online.
Top down view of white potatoes on a black background.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Cook the onions until just caramelised to retain a hint of sweetness, or keep cooking until blackened for extra crispy texture.
  • Stir frequently to prevent the spices from burning.
  • Serve as a side dish for fragrant curries with steamed rice, garlic naan, roti or fresh bread.
  • Store any leftover curry leaves in the freezer in an airtight bag or container.

FAQs

Is Ala Thel Dala similar to Indian dry potato curry?

The method is similar, but the differences lie in the choice of oil and spices. Indian dry potato curries are usually cooked in ghee and include spices such as asafoetida, garam masala and coriander.

Is it spicy?

This recipe is only mildly spicy. You can add more chilli powder and/or more fresh chilli garnish to increase the heat, or leave them out completely if you want the flavour without the heat.

How do I parboil potatoes?

Pop your chopped or cubed potatoes in a saucepan with room temperature water and bring to the boil. From there, it should take around 10 minutes for the potatoes to partially cook (aka parboil). You can check the potatoes every few minutes by piercing with a fork. If they’re too firm, leave them for a few more minutes. We’re aiming for tender potatoes that still hold their shape and don’t fall apart when piercing with a fork.

Variations & Substitutes

  • Bake Potatoes Instead of Boiling (2 Ways)
    1. Smother the uncooked potato cubes in the cooked spices and pop them on a lined baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil or leave it off, it’s up to you. Bake for around 30 minutes at 200˚C (400˚F) until the potato is cooked through and the edges are crispy.
    2. Wrap the potato cubes in little pockets of aluminium foil (one portion per person) along with the spices and a drizzle of olive oil. The trapped steam will help infuse all those lovely flavours and aromas from the spices into the potatoes. Bake in the oven or on a super hot grill for around 30 minutes, and be careful of escaping steam when unwrapping the foil. It’s a good idea to wrap in two layers of foil to make sure the steam can’t escape while cooking.
  • Use Chilli Jam – Use your favourite chilli jam or chutney instead of the fresh spices for an easy shortcut.
  • Make it Saucy – While Ala Thel Dala is traditionally a dry curry, you can create a gravy by adding 60ml (1/4 cup) of coconut milk. Cover and simmer on low heat for around 5 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.
  • Make it Meal – Add chicken or veggies such as carrots, cauliflower or broccoli – with or without the sauce variation above.
  • Get Creative with Leftovers – Stuff leftover curried potatoes in homemade samosas or pastries. Make toasted sandwiches or regular sandwiches with fresh bread and butter. Yum!
A bowl of deviled potatoes next to cutlery and fresh spices.

Try these flavour packed curry recipes next:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and star rating below!

Close up shot of sri lankan deviled potatoes.

Deviled Potatoes – Sri Lankan Potato Fry (Ala Thel Dala)

With a big flavour punch, this Sri Lankan dry potato curry is no ordinary side dish! Also known as Ala Thel Dala, fry these simple spicy potatoes in just 20 minutes.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Sri Lankan
Servings: 4 sides
Calories: 236kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $5

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pop your potato pieces in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for around 10 minutes, until they're just starting to become tender, then drain.
  • Heat the oil in a large frypan and add in your sliced onions. Stir fry over a medium heat until they soften and turn translucent (around 3 minutes).
  • Next, pop in your black mustard seeds, turmeric powder, chilli, fresh curry leaves and a sprinkling of salt.
  • Add your cooked potatoes and stir through til nicely coated. Fry for a few more minutes until the surface of the potatoes is golden brown.
  • Garnish with a few extra curry leaves and fresh chilli slices if you want a little extra zing! Serve with freshly cooked rice and/or your favourite curry.

Recipe Notes

Tips to get this recipe just right:
  • Potatoes – You can use any kind of potato for this recipe. We usually use kestrel potatoes, which are bright and colourful with a super creamy texture once cooked.
  • Curry Leaves – You can buy fresh curry leaves from supermarkets or grocers. While it’s possible to source dried curry leaves online, the flavour won’t be as strong or as fresh. Please don’t be tempted to substitute fresh curry leaves for curry powder. The two are definitely not the same and the flavour is a total contrast – curry powder is actually a blend of powdered spices including cumin, turmeric, coriander, fenugreek leaves and chilli. If you can’t source curry leaves, you could try substituting with other herbs like basil, lemon basil or kaffir lime leaves. The flavour won’t be the same, but they’ll still help to bring your dish to life. Store any leftover curry leaves in the freezer in an airtight bag or container.
  • Spices – This recipe uses of a fragrant blend of chilli powder, black mustard seeds and turmeric powder which gives the potatoes such a wonderful flavour and golden colour. Thankfully, you should have no trouble finding all of these at a supermarket, import store or online. 
  • Stir frequently to prevent the spices from burning.
  • Onions – Cook the onions until just caramelised to retain a hint of sweetness, or keep cooking until blackened for extra crispy texture.
  • Bake Potatoes Instead of Boiling (2 Ways)
    1. Smother the uncooked potato cubes in the cooked spices and pop them on a lined baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil or leave it off, it’s up to you. Bake for around 30 minutes at 200˚C (400˚F) until the potato is cooked through and the edges are crispy.
    2. Wrap the potato cubes in little pockets of aluminium foil (one portion per person) along with the spices and a drizzle of olive oil. The trapped steam will help infuse all those lovely flavours and aromas from the spices into the potatoes. Bake in the oven or on a super hot grill for around 30 minutes, and be careful of escaping steam when unwrapping the foil. It’s a good idea to wrap in two layers of foil to make sure the steam can’t escape while cooking.
  • Use Chilli Jam – Use your favourite chilli jam or chutney instead of the fresh spices for an easy shortcut.
  • Make it Saucy – While Ala Thel Dala is traditionally a dry curry, you can create a gravy by adding 60ml (1/4 cup) of coconut milk. Cover and simmer on low heat for around 5 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.
  • Make it Meal – Add chicken or veggies such as carrots, cauliflower or broccoli – with or without the sauce variation above.
  • Get Creative with Leftovers – Stuff leftover curried potatoes in homemade samosas or pastries. Make toasted sandwiches or regular sandwiches with fresh bread and butter. Yum!

Nutrition

Calories: 236kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Sodium: 29mg | Potassium: 970mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 254IU | Vitamin C: 67mg | Calcium: 78mg | Iron: 7mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Deviled Potatoes – Sri Lankan Potato Fry (Ala Thel Dala)

27 Comments

  • Reply
    Penelope
    22/02/2020 at 6:31 pm

    5 stars
    I was born in Sri Lanka but have always been a hopeless cook when it comes to Sri Lankan cuisine! This recipe was so easy, and still very authentic…..brought memories of my childhood!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      24/02/2020 at 3:11 pm

      Oh wow, this is so good Penelope – so glad you were able to cook them and bring back your old memories – isn’t that the best!

  • Reply
    Debra C.
    23/02/2017 at 11:05 am

    5 stars
    I have never tried potatoes spiced like this but that needs to change. Big flavors, love that! They look delish!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      23/02/2017 at 7:31 pm

      It’s such a simple side dish too, so easy to make but so much flavour. Hope you enjoy Debra! ????

  • Reply
    Bintu - Recipes From A Pantry
    16/02/2017 at 12:57 am

    5 stars
    Yummy! This looks like a great side dish. What would you serve with it?

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:43 pm

      Rice, bread and other yummy curries would be a great place to start we think! But how about you? Do you have any other recommendations you’d like to try with this dish? 🙂

  • Reply
    Heather | All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
    15/02/2017 at 11:43 pm

    5 stars
    These look incredible, and I’m always looking for new ways to use the curry leaves that I have in my freezer! Adding to my menu next week.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:43 pm

      Woohoo glad we could help – let us know how it turns out! ❤️

  • Reply
    Jenni
    15/02/2017 at 9:48 pm

    Oh my goodness! This potato dish sounds amazing! And now I want to plant a curry tree!!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:42 pm

      It will legit be the best decision you could ever make hahaha ????

  • Reply
    Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
    15/02/2017 at 9:22 pm

    What a delicious potato dish! Potatoes are #1 for me!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:42 pm

      High five on that Rebecca!

  • Reply
    Amanda
    15/02/2017 at 6:17 am

    5 stars
    These sound delicious. I love that you gave so many tips about the ingredients, and clear directions on making this.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:41 pm

      Thanks Amanda, we hope they’re helpful for people when looking for their own ingredients. Sometimes it can be hard to find everything you need with international recipes, so we want to make it as easy as possible for people to either a) find them or b) find a suitable substitute. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Reply
    valentina
    13/02/2017 at 9:52 pm

    5 stars
    This sounds so delicious and it’s beautiful. The photographs are stunning!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:38 pm

      Aww thanks Valentina, glad you like them – hope you enjoy the recipe just as much. ????

  • Reply
    Jane x
    13/02/2017 at 9:49 pm

    Yes please!!! Love everythign about this dish – it looks like my idea of perfect 🙂
    Jane x
    PS want to house swap for a couple of months? It blinking FREEZING here in Cornwall, UK!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:38 pm

      Ohhh yep, done deal! Haha, no doubt a few weeks in each other’s weather and I’m sure we’ll have had enough haha. 😀 And thanks, hope you enjoy the recipe Jane!

  • Reply
    Bintu - Recipes From A Pantry
    13/02/2017 at 9:24 pm

    5 stars
    Always love a bit of spice and this looks amazing. What would you serve this with?

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:36 pm

      Same here! We definitely recommend serving beside fluffy white rice, perhaps another fragrant curry, and your favourite crispy flat bread.

  • Reply
    Molly Kumar
    13/02/2017 at 8:09 pm

    This looks so delicious and really easy to make too. I love curry leaves flavor in veggie dishes and combining it with potato is perfect.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:34 pm

      They’re like a match made in flavour heaven hahah 😀

  • Reply
    Luci's Morsels
    13/02/2017 at 4:12 pm

    5 stars
    These look delicious and so flavorful with the spices you’ve used.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:34 pm

      Thanks Luci! 🙂

  • Reply
    Martin @ The Why Chef
    09/02/2017 at 10:46 pm

    5 stars
    I’m always looking for a side dish to have with my Asian proteins! In fact I’m doing a Thai inspired fish dish at the weekend, so this is on the menu already! 😀

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      10/02/2017 at 12:03 pm

      Yes! That sounds amazing. What flavours are you putting on the dish? Maybe we can try that with our potatoes next time! Enjoy!

      • Reply
        Martin @ The Why Chef
        10/02/2017 at 8:48 pm

        5 stars
        The biggest flavours are kaffir lime leaves, tamarind, and chili. So there’s a good cross over here! (we can only get the dried curry leaves, and I have tons of dried kaffir lime leaves, so I’m using them) 😀 Cheers!

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