MasterChef UK judges spark rendang row in Malaysia, Indonesia

JAKARTA : Indonesians and Malaysians had their feathers ruffled over MasterChef UK's decision to eliminate a contestant from the popular cooking show because her chicken rendang wasn't crispy.

Netizens from the two countries - including the Malaysian Prime Minister - put aside a longstanding culinary dispute about the origins of the dish to express outrage at the cluelessness of the judges.

Judge Gregg Wallace and co-judge John Torode sparked a storm this week by criticising Malaysia-born contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin's dish because the "chicken skin isn't crispy, it can't be eaten".

Ms Olpin served her chicken rendang to accompany nasi lemak.

In Malaysian cyberspace, Facebook page Justice for Chicken Rendang was set up to collect signatures for a petition demanding an apology from chefs Wallace and Torode.

A Jakarta-based critic added: "We should be proud of defending rendang's dignity over ridiculous statement made by an ignorant caucasian chef that rendang should be 'crispy'."

As controversy grew online, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak waded into the debate, saying: "Who eats 'crispy' chicken rendang?"

The British High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ms Vicki Treadell - who was born in Malaysia - also tweeted at the embattled judges.

"Rendang is an iconic Malaysian national dish... It is never crispy and should also not be confused with fried chicken," she tweeted.

In response, Mr Torode told his online followers: "Maybe rendang is Indonesian! Love this! Brilliant how excited you are all getting ... Namaste."

But his response did little to douse the social media flames, with many users pointing out that "namaste" is a greeting used in India. - AFP

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