Mr Brown responds to MasterChef UK contestant being eliminated for rendang not being ‘crispy’

Comments by judges during an episode of MasterChef UK -- particularly one saying that the chicken rendang prepared by a Malaysian contestant was ‘not crispy enough’ -- have riled up many netizens. 

Contestant Zaleha Kadir Opin prepared nasi lemak with chicken rendang, a popular dish among customers. 

Alas, she was eliminated for the very same dish during the quarter-finals of the competition, reports The Star and The Straits Times

Judge John Torode gave the audience a run-down of a classic nasi lemak dish, saying 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”.

To that effect, Zaleha presented the judges with a plate of nasi lemak with chicken rendang, prawn sambal, omelette, anchovies, peanuts, and cucumber.

After tasting Zaleha’s food, judge Gregg Wallace said that the chicken skin was not crispy enough. 

He 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, I can't eat.”

Torode also shared his thoughts:

"It hasn't had enough time to cook down and become lovely and soft and falling apart. Instead, the chicken is just tough and not really flavoursome.”

All over social media, people who watched the episode started questioning if the two judges were qualified to be criticising Asian food. 

Local blogger and social media personality mrbrown even created a song 'Rendang Sayang', commenting on the situation.

Said mrbrown in the video:

"Huh? Hello, you know what is chicken rendang a not?" 

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Humour site SGAG also came up with memes. 

Read one post: 

“Since when is chicken rendang supposed to be crispy?”

Youtube users also voiced their opinions about the judge’s criticism online.

In his comments, user Yudi Masri referred to renowned Malaysia celebrity chef Datuk Redzuawan Ismail, also known as Chef Wan.

Said user Yudi:

“Not only Malaysians but myself a Singaporean and Indonesians as well I'm sure. Who the hell cooks crispy Chicken Rendang shod

“I bet these 2 jokers(newbies) don't even know who Chef Wan (is). Such a waste of effort for Chef Wan who's been going around the world promoting Asian Malay cuisines. 

“In the end, they don't even know how a proper Rendang supposed to be like.”

Another user Are Fiq added:

“They are not worthy to be judges if they are not knowledgeable about Asian cuisine.”

On Zaleha’s Instagram account, Jam13_wong said that it was the judges who should be eliminated. 

Zaleha’s supporters also thanked her for helping bring the Malaysian cuisine onto an international platform and said it was a pity that the judges were unfamiliar with the dish.

However, some felt that the statements made by the judges could have been misunderstood.

Said Medium writer Ivan Hong:

"These days, it’s safe to assume that if a piece of content shared on the internet is attention-grabbing, it was designed that way through a heady brew of selective reporting, and sh** stirring."

He lists down a few points examining the statements made by judge John Torode. 

Here are some of the points:

  • Torode is no stranger to rendang, having done a 10-part series about food in Malaysia. 
  • He did not criticise the rendang for not being crispy, and it was judge Gregg Wallace who said that line.
  • Torode was critiquing the contestant's dish as a nasi lemak, not rendang. His statement reflected he did not like the option of pairing nasi lemak with rendang
  • He then judged the rendang on its own merits

Ivan goes on to conclude that although there was no way he could determine the standard of Zaleha's rendang, he trusts the professional judgement of Torode as a chef. 

In response to the entire incident, Zaleha said that she stands by her traditional way of preparing the dish and will not change it, adding:

“As my friend said, what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger!”