Malaysia’s Zaleha poised for culinary stardom

Zaleha says she is grateful for the support she has received from Malaysians.

PETALING JAYA: Zaleha Kadir Olpin, who recently shot to celebrity status for failing to impress MasterChef UK judges, may be embarking on a busy career to promote Malaysian cuisine.

“There are many requests for me to do cooking demos,” she told FMT recently. “And I’m trying my best to accommodate every offer.

“I’m also in the midst of writing my very first cookbook, and about to start a new job as a cooking teacher in Bristol.”

It’s certain that crispy chicken rendang – to go with nasi lemak or anything else – won’t feature in any of her demonstrations. So eat your hearts out, John Torode and Gregg Wallace.

Torode and Wallace were the judges who said Zaleha’s chicken rendang wasn’t crispy and didn’t go well with nasi lemak, provoking howls of protest from legions of food lovers in Malaysia and elsewhere, including Britain.

Zaleha told FMT she was “amazed and grateful” for the support she received from Malaysians.

The Bristol-based mother of two said she wasn’t planning to join any other cooking competition.

“I joined MasterChef because I wanted to pursue my passion for cooking and see where my journey takes me.

“For now, I’ll just carry on with my Supper Club. In fact, I’m planning to make nasi lemak rendang the next time around.”

She cooks international dishes as well, but her friends love her curry laksa and nasi lemak the most.

Zaleha, who before this was a fulltime housewife, has lived in Bristol since her husband retired in 2016. She cooks every day because it isn’t easy to get halal food in that city.

“I’ve adapted to life in the UK well,” she said. “In my free time, I love to read recipe books, try out new recipes and catch up with the news and stories around the world.”

Though she has lived abroad for many years because her husband used to work all over the world as a marine engineer superintendent, her heart often yearns for home.

“I miss everything about Malaysia, especially my family and our gatherings, which always would involve food.” But she comes home every year.

Zaleha was eliminated from MasterChef UK last month during the quarter finals. Torode said she made a mistake in having chicken rendang on the side of her nasi lemak and Wallace said the chicken skin wasn’t crispy enough to be eaten.

Among those who criticised the judges’ comments was Prime Minister Najib Razak. And, for once, Pakatan Harapan chairman Mahathir Mohamad agreed with him.

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