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Oh my rendang! Here’s how the tasty dish has united us all

Published on 04 April 2018|
2 min read

It started when a MasterChef UK judge commented on a contestant’s chicken rendang as… not crispy enough.

The news rocked Malaysia’s food boat, and spread like wildfire. MasterChef UK contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin had cooked up a local favourite, nasi lemak, with chicken rendang. MasterChef UK judge Gregg Wallace opined that the chicken wasn’t crispy enough.

Fuel was added to fire, and now four countries have united to defend the dish.

Setting aside their history, four Southeast Asian countries come together for rendang’s sake

When Wallace first criticised Zaleha’s dish, Malaysians were up in arms across social media. It’s understandable, as rarely (or never) has anyone eaten crispy chicken rendang. Dubbed ‘Rendangate’, the movement grew in stride after Wallace’s fellow judge, John Torode, commented on the developments.

“Maybe rendang is Indonesian!! Love this!! Brilliant how excited you all are getting.. Namaste,” Torode reportedly tweeted.

MasterChef UK judges John Torode (left) and Gregg Wallace / Credit: Radio Times

That sparked another furore as social media users suggested Torode was trying to divide the two countries (as we’ve often squabbled over who owns the dish). However, Malaysians, Indonesians, Bruneians and Singaporeans came together to support the local dish.

What’s the chef in the middle of this saying?

Zaleha has remained cool and collected despite receiving the criticism and subsequently being eliminated. The Kuantan-born chef who resides in the UK had shared that nasi lemak was special to her, and she would not change the way she cooked the dish.

Here’s a spicy ayam rendang recipe by Chef Wan, in case you feel like cooking today

As with any traditional dish, the spices are what make all the difference. Don’t freak out when you see how many spices Chef Wan uses in this recipe from the Weekender Singapore!


  • 1.5kg chicken cut into 12 pieces
  • 500ml milk from starch of 1½ grated coconut with 500ml (2 cups) water
  • 110g toasted coconut paste (kerisik)
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • 1 turmeric leaf, sliced
  • 2 red chillies, composed of flowers
  • 1 handful Kaffir lime leaves, torn

Spice Paste

  • 8 shallots, skin peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic, skin peeled
  • 8 stalks lemongrass, sliced
  • ¾ inch ginger, skin peeled
  • ¾ inch fresh turmeric, skin peeled
  • 6 red chillies, deseeded
  • 5 chilli padi, deseeded
  • 1½ tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp powdered aniseed
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tbsp chilli paste

To actually make the rendang, here’s his method: Combine the spice paste ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Combine chicken, spice paste and coconut paste into the pot and simmer for 30 min or until the broth is almost dry. Lower heat and stir in coconut paste. Season with salt and sugar. Add turmeric and stir well before turning off the fire. Decorate with red chilli and kaffir lime leaves. Serve with white rice.

Have you ever tasted crispy chicken rendang? What are your thoughts on Rendangate? Let us know in the comments below!

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Featured Image Credit: Asian Correspondent

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