April 2018 will go down in history as when Rendanggate Scandal, a.k.a. the Crispy Rendang Saga, happened.
As everybody ought to know by now, nothing riles and unites Malaysians (as well as Singaporeans and Indonesians) more than food and a whiff of neo-imperialism.
Rendang crispy my ass 🇲🇾+🇮🇩+🇸🇬👊👊👊🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/QLW5cNq23e— Mothership.sg (@MothershipSG) April 3, 2018
A diplomatic incident
International disputes have been started over smaller provocations. And the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office must have known this too.
The British High Commissioner to Malaysia quickly put out a response tweet when emotions were running high to make it clear that she was on the Malaysians' side (with an abundance of hashtags):
. @MasterChefUK @JohnTorode1 & @GregAWallace #Rendang is an iconic #Malaysian national dish not to be confused with Indonesian options— VickiTreadell (@VickiTreadell) April 3, 2018
It can be #chicken #lamb or #beef
It is never #crispy & should also not be confused with the#friedchicken sometimes served with #nasilemak https://t.co/3sCBsgiwgQ
And naturally enough as well, politicians were quick to capitalise by jumping into the conversation by hacking other people's attention.
Prime Minister Najib Razak tweeted:
"Where do people eat 'crispy' chicken rendang?"
And his political opponent, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, had this to say:
Maybe you are confusing rendang chicken with KFC 🤔 https://t.co/yjsw0CeFtR— Dr Mahathir Mohamad (@chedetofficial) April 3, 2018
It's about sending a message
It doesn't matter what was said or memed, because when it comes to a situation like this, you know something is up.
Najib and Mahathir will face off in one of the most bitterly-contested general elections in the upcoming months.
Sniping at a couple of celebrity judges that symbolise former colonial overlords is an easy way to score political points.
On the positive side, it can be said that no matter how divided Malaysia can be during election season, their love of food is the one thing that can unite everyone.
On the negative side, it can be said that Rendanggate is an example of how low politics can rise above.
Or maybe the truth is a bit of both, just like how you can eat nasi lemak either with fried chicken or with rendang.
Top image adapted from Twitter, YouTube and Facebook