The Jakarta Post
Mostly based on beef, the popular 'rendang' can be combined into both modern and traditional dishes. (Shutterstock/-)
In a completely unprecedented move, Indonesians and Malaysians have united to blast television show judges over comments made about favorite dish rendang.
The apoplectic fury was unleashed on the heels of a MasterChef UK episode in which 48-year-old Zaleha Kadir Olpin of Kuantan, Malaysia, was eliminated because the judges thought her rendition of chicken rendang lacked crispiness.
Prior to the elimination, judge John Torode said the dish must be made with the right amount of coconut milk and spice, and that the chicken must be “really, really soft and fall apart”.
In the knockout round of the BBC One show, Zaleha served up a delectable dish of nasi lemak accompanied by chicken rendang, prawn sambal (chili sauce), omelet, anchovies, peanuts and cucumber.
Rendang is a culturally significant dish in the Minangkabau culture of West Sumatra, with the four ingredients representing Minangkabau society; meat symbolizing the clan leaders and the elders, the coconut milk representing the intellectuals, the chili symbolizing the religious leaders, while the spices symbolize the rest of Minangkabau society.
However, after the tasting session, judge Gregg Wallace criticized the dish, saying the chicken was not crispy enough for his liking.
“I like the rendang flavor, there’s 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,” he said.
Torode added his two cents, saying that the rendang was a mistake.“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 flavorsome,” he said.
Zaleha looked visibly upset after the comments, saying that she was “gutted” as she hung up her apron.
Predictably, Twitter was abuzz as Malaysians were up in arms saying that rendang was not supposed to be crispy.
“As a Malaysian for the past 22 years, for the first time I heard chicken rendang must have a crispy skin. Who the f*** in the world eat their rendang with crispy skin,” said Twitter user @WayneLee92963.
Indonesian user @sissassy chimed in, saying that it was her first time hearing that chicken rendang was supposed to crispy. “Are we talking about the real rendang or KFC fried chicken smeared in instant rendang spices?”
KFC had indeed offered a rendang rice bucket in Singapore for a limited time in 2017, consisting of rice with boneless chicken slathered with rendang sauce.
Meanwhile, @syaf_J16 exposed deep-seated racial tensions in her tweet, saying that “white people trying to tell a makcik how to cook her rendang and then penalizing her because she didn’t cook her rendang the way they thought it should be. Because as always, white people telling Asians what they are and how to be.”
As part of his own damage control, Torode went on Twitter saying that “maybe rendang is Indonesian” and signing off with “namaste”, likely mixing up Indonesia with India.
Culinary expert William Wongso told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that he found the judges’ decision to be absurd, saying that the judges should learn about the dish and its nuances beforehand.
“I personally would not pass judgment on a dish if I have not mastered the dish myself,” he said, adding that the judges’ lacked understanding of rendang.
According to William, rendang is cooked differently in Malaysia and Indonesia, noting that the chicken is lighter in color and taste than its Indonesian counterpart.
As debate raged on various social media sites, Zaleha ultimately stood by her traditional way of cooking nasi lemak on an Instagram post, saying that she wouldn’t change it for the world.
“As my friend said, what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger!” (jlm)