Home Food The “Rendang” Conundrum, When West Gets East Wrong

The “Rendang” Conundrum, When West Gets East Wrong

by Nicolas See Tho

The recent uproar by Masterchef Jon Torode on his comments on our beloved national dish, “Chicken Rendang” has set up fiery tempers and dismissals by the Malaysian netizens. Asian foodies are known to be passionate about their food which is deeply rooted in their culture, thus it comes to no surprise that the celebrity chef’s comments were inflammatory.

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For those of you not up to speed, let me shed some light on the situation, Masterchef Jon Torode and Greg Wallace(seen above) were testing out a dish made by Malaysian born Zaleha Kaldir Olpin, and she was serving a chicken rendang dish. To her dismay, the judges ruled that the dish was not cooked enough as the skin was too soft and not crispy enough. This remark, in turn, infuriated many Malaysians with support from South East Asian countries as well, with trends popping up such as #Gastrodiplomacy and #nocrispyrendang.

But incidents such as these are not as rare as one would think, as several incidents had happened prior to this with western counterparts lack Asian cuisine insisting that they know better. Here is a short list of some trespasses.

1.Exploding Dumplings controversy

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This incident was created when a renowned travel and lifestyle organisation were reported to have manhandled a signature dish from China, the Xiao Long Bao or little basket buns. In their one minute video, diners were shown bursting their dumplings and throwing the soup within away.

2. Halo-Halo from the Philippines turned into a hippie drink at Coachella

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A famed Pinoy dessert, the Halo Halo is a dish of shaved ice, evaporated milk with boiled sweet beans, sago coconut, jelly, tubers and fruits mixed into a delightful concoction. How can it go wrong you wonder?

Well, a few well known American chefs took the dish back to America and introduced it in one of the most influential music and arts festival: Coachella, whereby they bastardised the dish by using fruity cereal, tofu and even Red Bull is added into the mix.

3. When Pho has no broth

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This incident was less heated than the rest mentioned here on the list but relevant nonetheless. A Los Angeles restaurant called Komodo decided to serve a tribute to the famous Vietnamese staple by turning it into a burrito wrap.  This then sparked a rather significant number of Vietnamese netizens calling it a travesty. One user mentioned that it can’t be called Pho if there is no broth. Additionally, the restaurant’s name, Komodo, was neither Vietnamese nor Mexican, it is an island in Indonesia.

And there you have it, these are some of the more recent adventures by the westerners in their crusade to impose a new identity on beloved Asian cuisines.

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