'Masterchef' judge accused of 'whitesplaining' over crispy rendang spat

A traditional southeast Asian chicken rendang curry, set out with fried rice and salads.

Story highlights

  • Contestant Zaleha Olpin was eliminated from the BBC cooking show last week
  • After a judge's comments on her chicken went viral, even Malaysia's leaders chimed in to defend her

(CNN)Judges on the popular UK television show 'Masterchef' have sparked an international incident after they criticized a Malaysian-born contestant's chicken rendang curry for not being "crispy."

The controversy has caused a social media storm in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, where people -- including the Malaysian Prime Minister -- have expressed shock and annoyance at the apparent ignorance of the UK judging panel.
    Contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin presented the judges with a nasi lemak, a coconut rice dish, accompanied by chicken rendang, prompting judge Gregg Wallace, a writer and former greengrocer, to complain "the chicken skin isn't crispy, it can't be eaten, but all the sauce is on the skin I can't eat."
    In a traditional rendang, the meat is slow cooked in a coconut-based curry sauce, and should be tender and moist, not crispy. The dish originated in Indonesia but is popular across southeast Asia, and is most often made with beef. In 2011, it came top in a poll of 35,000 CNN readers as the world's best food.
    Later in the BBC show, as he and fellow judge John Torode were deciding to eliminate Zaleha, he reiterated the point, saying "what disappointed me was that the chicken skin wasn't cooked, and the flavor of the rendang sauce was on the skin."