KUALA LUMPUR: When MasterChef UK contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin was told her chicken rendang should have been crispy, it sparked a storm of criticism halfway across the globe as Malaysians took to social media to slam the judges' ignorance.
Even Malaysia's leaders weighed in. Prime Minister Najib Razak tweeted on Tuesday (Apr 3): "Who eats chicken rendang with 'crispy chicken'?"
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, meanwhile, wrote on Facebook: "It is amusing when foreigners try to teach Malaysians about their own traditional foods. I wonder if this is a form of 'whitesplaining' that you hear about on social media."
Also joining the fray was former Malaysia Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who asked on Twitter if the judges were "confusing rendang chicken with KFC".
Malaysia-born Ms Zaleha had prepared chicken rendang to go with nasi lemak, but judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace were not happy with the dish and she was eliminated from the competition last week.
"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," Mr Wallace was reported to have complained.
Mr Torode also called Ms Zaleha’s dish a “mistake” and that the chicken had not “cooked down” enough to become “lovely and soft”.
On Twitter, one Malaysian wrote: "God, give me the confidence of a white man who believes he knows how to make a Malaysian dish better than a Malaysian woman."
A Facebook page "Justice for Chicken Rendang" has also been set up to collect signatures for a petition demanding an apology from the two judges.
It wasn't just Malaysians. Indonesians and Singaporeans, too, have criticised the judges amid the bubbling controversy.
One social media user wrote: "To the judges of MasterChef UK, I'm from Singapore. Singapore is a mix of eastern and western culture. As much as I love western cuisine, I also love Asian cuisine. Your decision demonstrates that you lack of knowledge of Asian cuisine. Chicken rendang is not supposed to be crispy."
Also coming to Ms Zaleha’s defence was Malaysian celebrity Chef Wan. In an Instagram post, the popular chef and television host said Ms Zaleha was eliminated “due to the wrong reason” and that the two judges had “embarrassed Zaleha” and “ruined her participation”.
Chef Wan also called on Mr Torode and Mr Wallace to bring Ms Zaleha back into the competition and “sincerely apologise” to her in public.
The British High Commissioner to Malaysia also said her piece.
"It is never crispy and should also not be confused with the fried chicken sometimes served with nasi lemak," tweeted Vicki Treadell.
In an Instagram post last week, Ms Zaleha said she was "gutted" to have been eliminated from the show, adding that she stood by her traditional way of cooking nasi lemak.
Responding to the barrage of criticism, Mr Torode tweeted: “Maybe Rendang is Indonesian!! Love this!! Brilliant how excited you are all getting … Namaste.”
However, his response only served to stoke the flames further, with many questioning his use of “Namaste”, a greeting used in India.
A Twitter user responded: “Trying to make Malaysians and Indonesians fight over the rendang? No, we will unite instead.”