Food Fame – Zaleha Olpin of Crispy Rendang-gate article - crispy rendang
Crispy Rendang Story by

When news broke that a Malaysian contestant was eliminated from MasterChef UK because the judges faulted her chicken rendang for not being crispy, it had the rare effect of uniting the populations of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei in collective outrage. (In case you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, rendang is meant to be about as crispy as fish and chips is meant to come in a soup.)

Even the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir, chimed in –

Dr Mahathir Tweet - confusing rendang with KFC

The travesty of Zaleha Olpin’s elimination reaffirmed my assertion that too many Western “celebrity chefs” are what we Malaysians call “bodoh sombong” – stupid-arrogant – towards cuisines about which they clearly know nothing.

I don’t watch MasterChef (nor any other reality or cooking show), but I sympathised with Zaleha at the time – how do you recover from such an unceremonious end to a TV stint? And how do you change the narrative of victimhood that threatens to follow you everywhere, thanks to the social media storm?

You publish a cookbook called “My Rendang Isn’t Crispy”, that’s how.

My Rendang Isn't Crispy Cookbook by Zaleha Olpin

This, to me, is the perfect comeback for the judges who decided not only to boot her off the show on a fallacious premise, but, in the case of John Torode, to further endear himself to Malaysians through what he must have thought was a clever divide-and-conquer strategy –

John Torode tweet Rendang is Indonesian...Namaste

Only to be mocked for it –

Tweet by lockmeupwithjoy about Namaste and John Torode

In this Food Fame interview with Zaleha Olpin, she talks (with incredible grace, I should add) about –

  • what went on behind the scenes on the show
  • how the publicity has changed her life
  • how the idea for the cookbook came about
  • what she’s been up to since MasterChef UK 

My Rendang Isn’t Crispy is available for pre-order at and

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