Absolute chaos. That is the state of our local Twitter and Facebook feeds after news broke out that a Malaysian-born contestant was eliminated from Masterchef UK. The thing that set people off? The judges thought her chicken rendang “was a mistake”.
Chicken rendang a mistake? Never!
MasterChef UK judge John Torode said that the texture of the chicken was wrong as it has to be “really really soft, and falling apart”. Fellow MasterChef UK judge, Gregg Wallace, also commented that the rendang cannot be eaten as “The chicken skin isn’t crispy,” and that he can’t eat it because there’s sauce all over the chicken.
Enraged by the judges’ comments, people have taken it to social media to comment on the matter. Some even directly tagged John saying that this dish is part of our culture and shouldn’t be criticised so heavily just to please their tastes. Torode added fuel to the fire by saying “we could argue about its origins and whether [the] chicken is a classic or adaptation.”
So how exactly is a chicken rendang supposed to be like? Let’s look at the basics shall we.
1. What is rendang?
Only the best dish ever!
Chicken rendang is basically a stew made with fresh Asian spices and herbs with coconut milk. The stew is boiled down until it becomes a thick gravy full of flavour. There are different variations to the dish.
This dish is enjoyed all year round. Often eaten with nasi lemak or just with plain rice. Chicken rendang also has a relative to the raya season. It’s a dish every Malaysian looks forward to every Hari Raya where every household will have at least one rendang dish.
2. Where did it originate from?
Its origins is found deep in the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia, but has made way to our shores. However, Minangkabau rendang is made with beef and has a much darker colour.
Chicken rendang is a Malaysian twist to rendang. It has become a staple in Malaysian culture and is a dish we proudly show off.
3. Is the chicken skin supposed to be crispy?
Chef Wan told the News Straits Times that the chicken skin should not be crispy at all. “This recipe is not grilled or pan fried. It is like telling a French chef, why your coq co vin, chicken cooked in red wine, not having crispy skin.”
He also added that “Stewing and braising dishes as in any culture would not result in the skin being crispy unless there are load of fats under the skin like the duck.”
You heard the man! So there you have it Mr Gregg Wallace, no crispy chicken skin in a rendang.
4. Should the sauce be on the side?
5. What about the ‘fall-off-the-bone’ super soft texture?
The meat isn’t supposed to literally fall off the bone. Freshly made rendang usually has meat stuck to the bone. The ‘falling-off-the-bone’ texture usually only comes after reheating it for a few times. This is because the gravy starts to dry up and because we’re constantly stirring the dish, the meat can’t withhold holding on the the bone anymore.
However Chef Wan did mention that John had a point when it came to the texture of the chicken. “Yes, John did voice his opinion right as the chicken needed to be rendered a bit more for it to be much softer but not till fell apart!”
As of now, three nations has come together to debunk these ridiculous claims. Even our Prime Minister Datuk Sri Najib Razak, Malaysian British High Commissioner, Vicki Treadell and former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir joined the narration. That’s how serious we take this.
In conclusion, all variations of chicken rendang are amazing and none have crispy chicken skin.
Want to to try making rendang? Here’s a delicious recipe!