Gregg Wallace, one of the show’s judges, said the Malaysian-born contestant’s chicken rendang curry was flawed.
“The skin isn’t crispy. It can’t be eaten but all the sauce is on the skin I can’t eat,” said Wallace.
His stinging assessment has led to ridicule on social media, with people pointing out that the chicken in a rendang curry should never be crispy.
Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak tweeted a picture of the curry along with the words: “Does anyone eat chicken rendang ‘crispy’? #MalaysianFood”.
The dish is popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and southern Thailand.
A wave of rebuttals from people in Southeast Asia has put the MasterChef judges firmly in their place.
“This is Chicken Rendang @JohnTorode1 . I dont know where is the crispy part? Can u tell me? #crispyrendang,” tweeted @AlauddinAniq.
Another user, Cikno, posted: “I have never in my life eaten a chicken rendang which is crispy.”
Britain’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Vicki Treadell, also tried to simmer down the culinary spat.
She tweeted: “#Rendang is an iconic #Malaysian national dish not to be confused with Indonesian options. It can be #chicken #lamb or #beef It is never #crispy & should also not be confused with the #friedchicken sometimes served with #nasilemak.”
In response, fellow judge John Torode posted online: “Maybe Rendang is Indonesian!! Love this !! Brilliant how excited you are all getting .. Namaste.”
The contestant whose meal sparked the backlash, Zaleha Kadir Olpin, was cooking the rendang as part of traditional Malaysian dish, nasi lemak.
Despite praise for most of her meal, she was eliminated – but has vowed to keep cooking the traditional way.
“So proud to have served this and will keep cooking the way my family loves them,” she said on Instagram. “No changing to a traditional nations favourite.”