'Rendang has to be crispy,' MasterChef UK moment riles up Malaysians

Zaleha Kadir Opin's nasi lemak with chicken rendang and prawn sambal dish that got her eliminated from MasterChef UK.

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The chicken rendang in the nasi lemak is "not crispy enough" - that has got Malaysians riled up over the comments by judges during a MasterChef UK episode.

Contestant Zaleha Kadir Opin's traditional rendition of nasi lemak with chicken rendang could attract queues outside her kitchen doors, but the very same dish got her eliminated from the quarter-finals of the competition.

Zaleha, 48, was making the dish during the knockout round of the BBC1 programme, a dish she said was her childhood favourite.

"I used to save my pocket money to buy nasi lemak on Friday and there was a special stall outside our school that used to sell the best nasi lemak for 20 sen, it is very special," Zaleha told MasterChef UK judge John Torode while she was preparing the dish.

During the 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".

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

After tasting, judge Gregg Wallace criticised the chicken skin for not being crispy enough.

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"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," Wallace said.

Torode chimed in, saying that the chicken rendang is 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 flavoursome," he said.

Zaleha looked visibly disappointed at the comments and later was heard saying she was "gutted" as she removed her apron after elimination.

Chicken rendang is a dry curry dish where chicken is stewed in coconut milk and spices until the chicken is tender.

On social media, Malaysians who have watched the episode are questioning whether the two judges are qualified to be criticising Asian foods.

Social media users, who watched a YouTube video of the MasterChef UK episode, said the judges have "no idea" how chicken rendang is prepared.

"They are not worthy to be judges if they are not knowledgeable about Asian cuisine," Are Fiq said.

"All the judges need cooking lesson from Chef Wan", Lapi Zaini said, referring to Malaysian celebrity chef Datuk Redzuawan Ismail.

"If you don't know anything about rendang, then I think that you should rendang (dunk) your own head first," Azuan Annas wrote in a comment directed at the judges.

On Zaleha's Instagram, Jam13_wong said it is the judges who should be eliminated.

Zaleha's supporters thanked her for representing Malaysian cuisine on an international platform and said it was a shame the judges were not familiar with it.

On Instagram, Zaleha said she stand by her traditional way of cooking the dish and would not have changed it for the world.

"As my friend said, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger!" she said.

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