The Crispy Chicken Controversy

Ahhhhh… it is the luxury of an advanced society to be able to muster outrage over utterly trivial things.

The trendy lightbox sign at Singapore’s indie cinema The Projector read ‘Justice for chicken rendang’ in April this year, echoing the hashtags that were blowing up social media at the time. #CrispyRendang and #Rendangate were uniting Malaysians and Indonesians, who were utterly outraged at a diplomatic controversy.

In case you missed the furore, here is what happened: Malaysian contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin cooked chicken rendang on the British version of MasterChef, which judge Gregg Wallace declared wasn’t ‘crispy’ enough and couldn’t possibly be eaten.

‘Crispy?’ came the rallying cry from South-East Asia. An unctuous, slow-cooked dish of meat with coconut and spices, rendang can be described as many things – rich, spicy, melt-in-the-mouth – but everyone from the former and current Malaysian prime ministers to foreign diplomats and professional Indonesian and Malaysian chefs agree that it is definitely not crispy.

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