Judges on the BBC show Masterchef decided that the dish of chicken rendang, traditionally cooked to a soft and yielding texture, needed ‘crispy’ skin.
The chicken on the show was served as an accompaniment to nasi lemak, a beloved Malaysian dish of rice cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaf, often served with a chilli paste called sembal, a hard boiled egg, fried anchovies, peanuts, vegetables and chicken.
A popular and simple dish that’s often eaten for breakfast, more lavish versions of it come with beef or chicken rendang on the side – a rich and tasty curry made by stewing the meat in spices and coconut milk until it’s soft and tender.
Zaleha Kadir Olpin, from Bristol, prepared her traditional Malaysian dish for judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace and was shocked when they told her that her chicken rendang was prepared wrong.
Mr Wallace said: ‘I like the rendang flavour, there’s a coconut sweetness. However, the chicken skin isn’t crispy. It can’t be eaten and all the sauce is on the skin so I can’t eat it.’
Malaysians have been outraged by the comment, and have taken to social media to point out how wrong the judges are.
A Facebook post saw the nation defending their beloved dish. One member of the public said: ‘As a Malaysian, if I could, I would personally go to the show and rendang their head.’
Another wrote: ‘Utter ridiculousness. Crispy chicken rendang? You think this is fish and chips? Don’t be a judge if you don’t know how to judge.’
One commenter brought out the big guns, stating: ‘You want crispy? You go get yourself a bucket of spicy KFC.’
On the show, Olpin spoke about her history with the dish and why it was special to her. It was the first food her mother cooked for her husband on their first visit home together, and was a childhood favourite.
She said: ‘There was a special stall outside my school that sold the best nasi lemak so I used to save up pocket money on Fridays. The dish is very special to me.’
But the chicken dish which Torode called ‘a mistake’ marked her exit from the programme.
In an Instagram post about her elimination, she said: ‘I stand by my traditional way of cooking Nasi Lemak. Will not change it for the world. Thank you so much for all your support and good wishes.’
Even the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, got involved with the debate by tweeting a photo of what he considers to be proper chicken rendang.
Translated from Malaysian, the tweet read: ‘Where there are people eating “crispy” chicken rendang?’ The photo is of a delicious serving of the non-crispy chicken dish.