PETALING JAYA, April 6 — Despite her dubious ejection from food reality TV series MasterChef UK, Malaysian cook Zaleha Kadir Olpin has “no regrets” about serving nasi lemak without “crispy skin” chicken rendang.
The Kuantan-born woman at the centre of an international food row involving five countries expressed pride in serving the dish the way her mother cooks it, even if it failed to impress MasterChef UK judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode.
“I was so disappointed to be eliminated especially for making one of our nation’s favourite dishes,” Zaleha told Malay Mail when contacted today.
“I cooked the dish the same way as how it was cooked by my mother, as how Malaysians make it, so there are no regrets there.”
The dish, which otherwise drew positive remarks from Torode and Wallace, wasn’t the first Malaysian recipe Zaleha showcased on the cooking talent show.
The former accountant auditioned with chicken satay in order to make the cut.
She made a murtabak for her first challenge and passed the second round with fish cutlets served with gulai Pahang and nasi tomato.
“I had such wonderful, positive comments for these dishes,” said Zaleha, who was nonetheless glad to have participated in the competition.
“Being in the competition itself was a great opportunity for me to showcase my skills and national cuisine.
“To be chosen among thousands that applied, that is an achievement to me.”
The rendang row drew responses from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the UK and Australia — Torode’s home country.
Among the public figures who weighed in on how rendang is prepared were Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and British High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ipoh-born Vicki Tredall.
Celebrity chefs Datuk Redzuawan Ismail, better known as Chef Wan, and Sherson Lian also gave their thoughts on the matter, to the point of calling Torode and Wallace “ignorant”.
Memorably, a region united in support of Zaleha, namely Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei.
“To have the four nations stand up for me in support is quite overwhelming. I am blessed,” Zaleha added.
Judges Torode and Wallace attempted to play down the controversy by suggesting the rendang was undercooked rather than needing a crispy texture.
Based in Bristol, Zaleha now turns her attention back to co-owned catering business Malaysian Kitchen Supper Club, which has increased interest following her stint on MasterChef UK.
“I am sure [MasterChef] will have an impact on my future ventures, and I look forward to introducing Malaysian cooking to people.