Malaysian prime minister joins criticism of MasterChef judge for controversial elimination

Social media users say Gregg Wallace misidentified the correct cooking of a traditional Malaysian dish

Programme Name: Masterchef  - TX: 22/03/2018 - Episode: Heat 12 - 4th Quarter Final (No. Heat 12 - 4th Quarter Final) - Picture Shows:  Gregg Wallace - (C) Shine TV Ltd - Photographer: Screengrab

The Malaysian prime minister has joined south-east Asian MasterChef viewers in criticising the British show’s judge Gregg Wallace after a Malaysian-born woman was eliminated from the show because her chicken rendang wasn’t crispy enough.

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Bristol-based Zaleha Kadir Olpin made nasi lemak – a Malaysian coconut rice served with spice prawn sambal, crispy anchovies, omlette, fried peanuts and a chicken rendang curry.

But she was booted off the cooking contest on 25th March, with Wallace commenting: “I like your rendang flavour, that’s like a coconut sweetness. However, the chicken skin isn’t crispy. It can’t be eaten but all the sauce is on the skin I can’t eat.”

Many social media users rushed to point out that the dish traditionally calls for the chicken to be soft and tender after hours of slow-cooking, not crispy as Wallace had suggested.

Torode had told Olpin, “I think the chicken rendang on the side is a mistake. It hasn’t had enough time to cook down and become lovely and soft and fall apart. Instead the chicken itself is just tough and it’s not really flavoursome.”

But social media soon heaved with criticism of Wallace’s comments. “Utter ridiculousness,” Facebook user Sujita Soorian commented under a story about the blunder. “Crispy chicken rendang? Did the judges think that this was fish and chips? Calling themselves ‘celebrity chefs’ when they only know about food from their own culture. Such limited knowledge of cuisine from around the world. Shame on them really.”

Meanwhile, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has also waded into the debate, asking “Does anyone eat chicken rendang ‘crispy’?”

Olpin stood by her method in an Instagram post shared after her elimination had aired, saying she would “not change it for the world”.

Malaysian journalist and food writer Jahabar Sadiq later told the BBC that calling for the dish to be “crispy” rather than “soft and tender” was ignorant.

“They clearly weren’t familiar with food from other parts of the world because if they were, they would have had the knowledge to know what real nasi lemak is,” he said.

“Crispy chicken? No. The meat has to be soft and that’s a result of hours of cooking…Many people associate chicken with being fried but there is no craft, no skill. But this is chicken rendang, not KFC so it all boils down to how the chef controls the spices and the flames. The amount of coconut milk is also key.”

The dish is a traditional south east Asian curry which is made with coconut milk and spices.

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MasterChef continues on Wednesday at 8pm on BBC1