It all started when MasterChef UK judge Gregg Wallace criticised Malaysian chef Zaleha Kadir Olpin’s rendang chicken for not being “crispy enough”.
This was met with howls of derision by Malaysians, with even the British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell pointing out that it should never be crispy and should not to be confused with the fried chicken sometimes served with nasi lemak.
After Malaysians slammed the judge for not knowing what the traditional Malaysian dish is about, Wallace’s fellow judge John Torode decided to fuel the fire with a tweet.
“Maybe Rendang is Indonesian !! Love this!! Brilliant how excited you are all getting .. Namaste,” John Torode said on Twitter.
Some people on Twitter accused him of trying to drive a wedge between the two countries, but that clearly backfired after the people of four nations – Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and even Singapore – united to defend the dish and slam Torode.
Twitter user SunshineSt @NadirahOthman said that regardless of origin, no rendang was crispy or came with sauce on the side.
She added that Torode was welcome to visit the countries in the region to sample some beef and chicken rendang.
Lily Travelholic @lilyriani said that rendang in every country in “Nusantara” had a different taste.
Nusantara refers to the Malay archipelago that consists of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines, although rendang is not a traditional dish in the latter two countries.
And within respective provinces, there are different kinds of rendang too, just as there is for laksa, she said.
“Padan muka (serves you right). Now feel lah the bawangness (onion-like pungency) of Malaysian, Indonesian, Singaporean and Bruneian (sic),” said twitter user Irfan@irfannhamzah.
Fitrani Puspitasari said this was the first time she saw Malaysians and Indonesians united over something.
“So the UK judge who eliminated a Malaysian contestant who cooked ayam (chicken) rendang because it ain't CRISPY was scolded by a Malaysian on Twitter. But he actually tried to dodge it by saying rendang is Indonesian, NAMASTE!
“Well, you know what? Indonesian don't eat crispy rendang either!!! And we don't say namaste, that's India, you ignorant *****,” she said in a Facebook post that was shared by thousands.
During the MasterChef UK show, Torode gave the audience a run-down of the classic nasi lemak dish, saying that the rice has to be served with not too much coconut milk, the sambal has to be ferociously hot, and the chicken has to be “really, really soft and falling apart”.
Which sounds just about right.
Zaleha then presented the judges with a sumptuous-looking plate of nasi lemak with chicken rendang, prawn sambal, an omelette, anchovies, peanuts and cucumber.
After tasting it however, Wallace criticised the chicken skin in the rendang for not being crispy enough.
Malaysians all got behind chef Zaleha.
Even Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman got in on the act, and congratulated Zaleha for managing to unite Malaysians from all sides of the political divide.
“You have succeeded in a way that many of us politicians could not, i.e. to unite Malaysians in the most divisive of times,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
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