What next, ‘paratha’ with eggs?

APRIL 6 — “Rendangate” has taken social media by storm. A UK-based, Malaysia-originated participant did not make it past the quarterfinals of Masterchef UK due to her nasi lemak not being good enough. 

Perhaps it was not but what was particularly irksome was when the judges claimed that the chicken rendang should have had crispy skin! 

Malaysians were up in arms! Our national dish was being attacked and perverted. 

It was certainly gratifying to see Malaysians of all creeds and colours and even the heads of the two main political coalitions agreeing on one thing — chicken rendang should not have crispy skin. 

Later, one of the judges was reported to have said that rather than implying the skin should have been crispy, he meant that it was undercooked instead! Quite a storm in a teacup.

I am a foodie with a history of obesity to prove it. Since I learnt how to cook, it has actually helped my food obsession because now I do not have to put up with restaurants which simply do not care about quality. 

If I do not like how the KFC style fried chicken is served in my local chicken and chips shop (a staple in the UK), I can simply prepare it myself. 

This is actually better from a nutritional and ethical point of view as well. These chicken and chips shops are notorious for their low quality meat and the way their suppliers treat the farmed animals.

As a result of my relatively newfound discernment (totally missing during my early 20s), it can actually take a day and a half to get the dish ready! 

There is the process of brining, marination, preparing the coating and of course frying itself. But the effort is worth it — at least you can make it just the way you like it. 

Also, I am a big fan of food experimentation. While back in my pre-cooking days, I’d be happy with whatever came in the packaging, now I am a keen food experimentalist. 

I tried adding a Malaysian touch to Italian dishes such as pizza and pasta. Pizzas are quite open to different toppings. I once made a dried sambal paste, topped it with cheese and anchovies and it turned out beautiful. 

I even tried beef rendang with pasta once and it was not too bad although I probably would not serve it at a dinner party. It’s an acquired taste. 

Food experimentation is quite a natural activity. What can one expect from a meeting of cultures? We can see this on our very doorstep. 

The roti canai is certainly not something one can find in India. It was evolved from the paratha bread which has some resemblance to the roti canai but is far less kinetic and dramatic in its preparation. 

However, the mind boggling variety of roti dishes found in Malaysia has not even been conceived by paratha makers in the UK. I once suggested to a friend, why not mix the paratha with some scrambled eggs and onions? 

Although this dish is ubiquitously known to Malaysians as the roti telur, my friend was blown away by the idea. To her, paratha was paratha. The addition of ghee was her limit. 

Back to the “rendangate” kerfuffle, it was perhaps a cultural misunderstanding on the judges’ part but it really gave us something to think about. 

After all, what’s wrong with crispy chicken doused with rich rendang sauce? I would even suggest using rendang spice mix as part of the batter, in the same way KFC presumably uses chili powder in its hot and spicy crispy chicken. 

Food is a glorious heavenly blessing which we should not be narrow-minded about.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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