MasterChef #RendangGate controversy involves Malay PM

I know Malaysians are very protective of their religion, culture and cuisine. The involvement of the Malaysian Prime Minister emphasises our attitude towards this. In another words, please don’t mess with our cuisine – Zaleha Kadir Olpin (read FtL’s interview here)

BBC MasterChef has come under fire over the cooking of an iconic Malaysian national dish from no less a figure than the country’s prime minister.

The controversy began when presenters John Torode and Gregg Wallace criticised the cooking of a Malaysian Chicken Rendang presented by contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpen.

Adjudging the non-crispy chicken skin to be a mistake, the pair eliminated the mother of two, who is originally from Malaysia, from the competition during Knock Out week.

In response culinary traditionalists immediately took to social media to question both the judges’ conclusions and their knowledge of the Malay dish.

Zaleha too posted on Instagram saying she was “proud to have served” the dish in the way she did while vowing to “not change it for the world”.

The British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell, who tweeted the comical hashtag #rendanggate, also corrected the judges declaring: “It is never #crispy & should also not be confused with Indonesian options.”

But it was Torode’s Tweet, later deleted from his account, in which he questioned the origin of the dish as being Indonesian before ending with the Hindu salutational phrase Namaste despite Malaysia having a majority Muslim population.

That prompted possibly the most scathing reply of all from Malaysian celebrity chef Datuk Redzuawan Ismail, better known as Chef Wan, who accused Torode of arrogance.

“No need to be sarcastic about the origin of this dish and all that bloody namaste kind of sh*t which only reflect your true stupidity. Its culturally insensitive likewise insulting too! [sic]” he voiced.

“Regardless of where the dish originated from obviously this is not the issue. Food for many centuries have travelled all over the world by inmigrants, invasion etc. For a chef who have visited our country and seen all this Rendang dishes being made i am shocked he didnt get that simple lesson! [sic]”

He went on to accuse his British counterpart: “Zaleha i am sure was embarrassed by your incorrectly criticising her Nasi Lemak and Rendang and just appologise la !Swollow your dam pride and stop showing your arrogant and ignorant behaviour! [sic]”

I honestly cannot stand this kind of attitude of being arrogant in a chef. Regardless of where the dish originated from obviously this is not the issue. Food for many centuries have travelled all over the world by inmigrants, invasion etc. For a chef who have visited our country and seen all this Rendang dishes being made i am shocked he didnt get that simple lesson!? The thing about this issue John is simple. U both caused the bummer to start with. Zaleha i am sure was embarrassed by your incorrectly criticising her Nasi Lemak and Rendang and just appologise la ! Swollow your dam pride and stop showing your arrogant and ignorant behaviour! No need to be sarcastic about the origin of this dish and all that bloody namaste kind of shit which only reflect your true stupidity. Its culturally insensitive likewise insulting too! Typical white thrash attitude. Lets get to the point here mate and stop beating around the bush! If i get that kind of smart comment in my Asian kitchen John u will be in my stock pot of Soto Ayam by now too!?? By the way another lesson for u here Soto also originated from Indonesia! Do u have a problem with that??? @johntorodecooks

A post shared by chef wan (@_chefwan58) on

Even the Malay Prime Minister Najib Razek waded into the debate on Tuesday with a picture of the curry in question – chicken skin fully intact and visible – before rhetorically asking: “Where does anyone eat chicken rendang ‘crispy’? #MalaysianFood”.

A MasterChef spokesperson told FtL: “MasterChef has always celebrated international cuisine and on this occasion our judges’ comments were relevant to the dish that had been cooked on the show.”

“Gregg wasn’t suggesting that the dish should traditionally have crispy skin – he was saying that he couldn’t experience the flavours of the dish as it was presented.”

But Zaleha said she was not surprised by the backlash: “I know Malaysians are very protective of their religion, culture and cuisine. The involvement of the Malaysian Prime Minister emphasises our attitude towards this. In another words, please don’t mess with our cuisine,” she told FtL.

She added: “This so-called controversy has been a learning experience for us all.  While I have learned a lot from MasterChef, they too have learned a lot from the way I cook and our tradition.”

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