Malaysia-born chef Zaleha Kadiri Olpin was a contestant on MasterChef UK.
For the quarter-final episode, which aired April 2, she decided to serve the judges, John Torode and Gregg Wallace, a traditional Malaysian dish of nasi lemak with a side of chicken rendang.
The judges were none too happy with the chicken, with Wallace commenting, “The skin isn’t crispy. It can’t be eaten but all the sauce is on the skin I can’t eat.”
She was then eliminated from the show. It was a figurative slap heard all around Southeast Asia.
People in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and even Brunei were up in arms, saying that the two judges were not qualified to judge Asian food. Especially since there’s no such thing as crispy chicken rendang.
The dish is usually cooked with beef or chicken, with the marinated meat stewing in a coconut gravy over a long period of time.
This makes it almost impossible to produce crispy skin.
Before you could say rendang-gate, #CrispyRendang started trending on social media.
Malaysians were, understandably, more involved seeing as how one of their own had been so publicly snubbed, and on a subject that was dear to their hearts.
For a moment in time, even political opponents set aside their differences to defend rendang’s honour.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak posted a picture of chicken rendang on Instagram and Twitter, with the comment, “Mana ada orang makan rendang ayam ‘crispy’?”, which translates to, “Who eats crispy chicken rendang?”
His political opponent in the upcoming elections, Dr Mahathir Mohamed, got in on the action too, tweeting: “Maybe you are confusing rendang chicken with KFC.”
Even the British High Commissioner to Malaysia, Vicki Treadell, explained on Twitter that rendang should never be crispy and that it should not be confused with fried chicken, which sometimes accompanies nasi lemak.