By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
This outrageous story came into my radar because I am from Malaysia.
Two white judges on the cooking show, BBC’s MasterChef UK, insisted a Malaysian contestant’s chicken rendang curry should have been crispy.
The contestant, Zaleha Kadir Olpin, was eliminated from the competition. Her offending rendang was presented as part of Malaysia’s national dish, Nasi Lemak, or rice cooked in coconut milk that comes with sides such as peanuts, spicy prawns, and rendang.
Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace complained about the way the meal was prepared in a recent episode of the show, saying, “The skin isn’t crispy.”
The backlash online was swift. “Saying chicken rendang should be crispy is like saying that hamburgers should be boiled,” said one Asian street food expert based in Singapore.
Other Southeast Asians pointed out that the chicken is cooked in curry sauce, not fried, and is never crispy. Some accused the judges of neo-colonial attitudes and racism.
Malaysia’s Foreign Minister said the judges were guilty of “whitesplaining.”
Remember last year’s hubbub caused by Bon Appétit magazine that ticked off Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans? Chef Tyler Akin, a white man, did a video originally titled “PSA: This Is How You Should Be Eating Pho” (it was then changed to “We’re in Love With This Pho”).
Please, white people. Stop telling us how to eat our food. And stop telling us how to cook our food.
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.