'Crispy' chicken rendang: Culinary fiascos that leave foodies in tears

Zaleha Kadir Opin's nasi lemak with chicken rendang and prawn sambal dish that got her eliminated from MasterChef UK. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/ Z.OLPIN

This article was first published on Oct 26, 2016, and updated on April 3, 2018.

MasterChef UK judge Gregg Wallace got Malaysians hopping mad when he said in a recent episode that contestant Zaleha Kadir Opin's chicken rendang in her nasi lemak was "not crispy enough".

Zaleha, who said the dish was her childhood favourite, was eliminated from the quarter-finals of the competition. She had presented the judges, including celebrity chef John Torode, with a plate of nasi lemak with chicken rendang, prawn sambal, omelette, anchovies, peanuts and cucumber.

But after tasting, Wallace criticised the chicken skin for not being crispy enough, while Torode called it a mistake.

Their comments riled many Malaysians, who took to social media to ask whether the two judges were qualified to be criticising Asian food.


A Time Out London Facebook post that compared eating the traditional Chinese dumplings to "popping zits" had some people outraged.

A video of 'exploding' xiao long bao or soup dumplings had foodies up in arms.SCREENGRABS: FACEBOOK/TIME OUT LONDON

Purists fumed over a video of the dumplings "exploding" - thus spilling all its tasty broth.

Complaints that chefs have "misappropriated" the food of other cultures, or savaged traditional recipes have multiplied on social media, leaving a bad taste in foodies' mouths.


A recipe for Hainanese chicken rice published by media website Vice has sparked outrage among foodies.

Some Singaporean and Malaysian diners expressed shock that Canadian chef Matty Matheson would call for olive oil and edible flowers to make their beloved dish.


Both sides of the Channel were annoyed over British supermart Tesco's decision to sell only straight croissants. The buttery breakfast pastry, means "crescent" in French.

Efficiency was the reason given.

"The majority of shoppers find it easier to spread jam, or their preferred filling, on a straighter shape with a single sweeping motion," Tesco's croissant buyer Harry Jones said in a statement.

"Is this a foretaste of Brexit?" French newspaper 20 Minutes asked.


Popular Asian American blogger Phil Yu, who writes under the moniker Angry Asian Man, recently called attention to a "banh mi bagel" being sold at an Australian bakery, Mile End Bagels, in Melbourne.

"BAGEL IS THE NEW BANH MI!" a magazine trumpeted, which left some of Yu's readers sputtering.

They are both bread products, but the similarities between bagels and banh mi tend to stop there.

Bagels, which consist of boiled rings of dough, are an Ashkenazi invention that have become a breakfast staple and a quintessential Jewish classic on the eastern seaboard of North America. Banh mi is the term usually used to refer to the Vietnamese sandwich made with a baguette and containing pork and pickled vegetables.

It is a mystery as to how exactly the banh mi bagel is "inspired" by Vietnamese food. It is advertised as containing kimchi, which is, of course, Korean. Now, if you were counting on a blend of Jewish and Korean cuisines, Korean-born Israeli chef Ziporah Rothkopf serves up kosher Korean fare in Jerusalem.


British food website Tastemade UK's video recipe for "Mexican Corn" left many people of Mexican descent with a bad taste in their mouth.

The Tastemade recipe called for elote - grilled corn - to be slathered in yoghurt, paprika, and feta and parmesan cheese. Colourful language immediately erupted.

One British reader said that it was understandable for Tastemade to substitute European ingredients for those which are more readily available in the Americas, such as the Mexican cotija cheese.

"However there is no excuse for the yogurt, paprika, chives etc," wrote Laura Hyde. "Whoever did this needs to be held accountable. Lo siento mucho (I am so sorry)."


Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who is British, threw the country into a tizzy with his paella recipe in October.

"Great Spanish food doesn't get much better than paella," he wrote on Twitter.

"My version combines chicken thighs and chorizo."

An enraged Spaniard shot back: "Let me tell you about my version of fish and chips. It combines beef and ravioli."

The inclusion of chorizo seemed to be the last straw for Valencian diners unaccustomed to the notion of finding the sausage in their rice dish.


Media giant Disney probably thought it had a winning recipe when it posted a recipe for Louisiana gumbo in September on the official Facebook page of its 2009 film The Princess And The Frog.

After all, the movie is set in New Orleans and tells the story of a would-be restauranteur, the titular princess Tiana.

Unfortunately, Disney's recipe called for replacing the roux with low-sodium chicken broth, and then went on to add kale and quinoa.

A Louisianan Twitter user called the Disney recipe "the one thing that instantly unites Louisianans of all races and creeds". Neither the Creole nor Cajun ethnic groups put kale in their respective gumbos.

The outrage was so overwhelming that Disney took down the video, although a Cajun blogger re-posted the recipe interspersed with clips of famous movie and television characters screaming "No!" in anguish.

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The New York Times started a culinary war in 2015 with a recipe for guacamole accompanied by the tweet: "Add green peas to your guacamole. Trust us."

Guacamole, whose name comes from Nahuatl, is a thick avocado sauce or dip popularly associated with Mexican cuisine. The New York Times' suggestion was a novel one, to put it lightly, and even US President Barack Obama responded with incredulity.

"Not buying peas in guac," he tweeted. "Onions, garlic, hot peppers. Classic."


The word "pho" may mean Vietnamese rice noodles, but cooks can ditch the noodles altogether and cook a pho broth with quinoa, according to a New York Times recipe from 2012 that recently resurfaced on the Internet.

Some commenters helpfully pointed out that, absent the noodles, the soup noodles would cease to be pho.

The use of quinoa itself has also generated economic controversy for several years, ever since diners in the West became endeared of a grain touted as a superfood.

High export prices are apparently pushing Peruvian and Bolivian farmers to raise their quinoa output, becoming more economically reliant on the crop - and thus more vulnerable to plunges in demand. The farmers are also facing environmental degradation of their arable land.


In September, Bon Appetit Magazine ended up with egg on its face for using the slogan "pho is the new ramen" to advertise a white Philadelphia-based chef Tyler Akin's instructional video on how to eat pho.

The slogan was held to be offensive for positing that different Asian ethnic groups are interchangeable. "While I get you're referring to the hype ramen had, you're disrespecting both noodle soups," wrote Facebook user Marianne Delatorre.

Some Asian Americans even called Akin "Christopher Pholumbus", alluding to the European voyager Christopher Columbus who "discovered" a continent that was already familiar to its indigenous inhabitants.


Bon Appetit has also garnered ire from Filipino Americans with its recipe for halo-halo, a shaved ice dessert that is similar to ice kacang. It is typically mixed with tropical fruits such as jackfruit and coconut, as well as the must-have topping of ube or yam.

The magazine's recipe calls for blueberries and blackberries, as well as gummy bear candies.

Modern spins on halo-halo are not unheard of in the United States. Celebrity Filipino American chef Dale Talde serves halo-halo with flavoured bubble tea pearls and sugary breakfast cereal in his eponymous New York City restaurant.

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