Malaysian ex-Masterchef UK contestant in 'rendangate' strikes back with cookbook

It's all my recipe: Zaleha with her 'My Rendang Isn't Crispy' book.
PHOTO: Instagram/That Rendang Lady

PETALING JAYA - A year after her rendang wasn't "crispy" enough for the judges of Masterchef UK, Zaleha Kadir Olpin has struck back with her debut cookbook.

The title? My Rendang Isn't Crispy, of course.

"I cannot tell you how excited I am feeling right now.

"From months of hard work to finally being able to hold it (the book) in my hands, I just hope you will enjoy and appreciate it," Zaleha said on her Facebook page.

Zaleha, who refers to herself as "That Rendang Lady" on her Instagram profile, was born in Kuantan but based in Bristol, England.

In April last year, she was eliminated from the reality TV show when judge Gregg Wallace declared that the rendang, which came with nasi lemak that Zaleha prepared for the competition, was not "crispy" enough.

His comment sparked an uproar among Asian foodies who knew there is no such thing as a crispy rendang chicken. It led to what is known now as "Rendangate".

ALSO READ: Crispy rendang chicken? Malaysian chef says 'Why not?"

Political rivals - then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and nemesis Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad - "united" in coming to Zaleha's defence on social media.

Then Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman got in on the act, congratulating Zaleha for managing to unite Malaysians from both sides of the political divide.

"You have succeeded in a way that many of us politicians could not, i.e. to unite Malaysians in the most divisive of times," he said.

BBC ran a story with the heading "How an outrage over crispy chicken united South-East Asia", noting that Malaysia and Indonesia, which often do not see eye to eye on many issues, were of one voice in this case.

My Rendang Isn't Crispy will be out on July 1 in Asia and on Sept 16 in Britain.

Marshall Cavendish, the publisher, said on its website that the cookbook was Zaleha's tribute to the dishes she grew up with such as laksam, a rice noodle dish unique to Peninsular Malaysia's east coast.

"Mostly handed down from her mother and grandmother, Zaleha's recipes maintain traditional methods of cooking, but are suitable for use in the modern kitchen so you can experience Malaysian cuisine in all its authenticity," it said.

"She also shares lessons she learnt growing up in a culinary family, with insights into the importance of food in Malaysian culture."