2018's most dramatic food fights

By Desiree Koh

Given the nation’s passion for food, it is rare for the year to go by without a good food fight. Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore looks at some of the incidents that caused heartburn, and trends that were a little hard to swallow.

1. #Rendangate

Masterchef UK’s Zaleha Kadir Olpin (PHOTO: BBC Studios)

When UK MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace faulted contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin’s rendition of chicken rendang for not being “crispy”, it made tempers all over the region sizzle. Singaporeans, who consider rendang a heritage dish, embraced the #rendangate #RendangIsNotCrispy cause. Ikea Singapore joined the fray with its Tolerant wok, tolerant of everything “except ‘crispy’ Rendang”. Even the Singapore Civil Defence Force seized the opportunity to warn Singaporeans not to leave their cooking unattended lest they end up with “le ‘crispy’ rendang”.

2. Getting territorial on taste

It was the Singapore version of the dessert, with sweetened red beans, that pleased CNN’s palate.

Singapore and Malaysia might have stood together on crispy rendang, but a territorial food fight broke out over chendol. When CNN announced its list of the world’s 50 best desserts, it placed Singapore’s take on chendol on the list, alongside New York cheesecake and Hong Kong egg tarts – sparking an uproar from across the Causeway. But even if gula melaka, the rich syrupy heart of cendol, comes from up north, and Penang has a highly celebrated version of the icy dessert, the food brigade missed the article’s point: that it was the Singapore version, with sweetened red beans, that pleased CNN’s palate.

3. Hawker wars

A coffeeshop in Bishan. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

Singapore’s bid for UNESCO to recognise its hawkers as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage for Humanity” caused yet another culinary clash with its neighbours up North. Malaysian celebrity chef Redzuwan Ismail called Singapore’s bid “arrogant”, while others insisted that Singapore’s hawker centres were too sanitised to qualify in authenticity. Singapore will formally submit its bid to Unesco in March 2019.

4. Ramadan Bazaar presents the bizarre

(PHOTO: Abdul Rahman Azhari/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

The Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar made a play to be more hipster this year. Nestled among staples like Ramly burgers and dendeng (spiced jerky) were odd aberrations like chilli crab churros, apam balik with Nutella, and non-alcoholic Butterbeer milk tea. With stall rentals at up to $20,000, entrepreneurs had clearly gotten creative – and social media provided no shortage of responses. Cue mass mourning that the beloved Ramadan bazaar was no longer the Malay heritage showcase it had always been, and that Instagram-worthiness had become more important.

5. Eng’s vs. Eng’s

[PHOTO: Facebook / Eng’s Wantan Noodle (Tanjong Katong)]

Tanjong Katong wantan mee seems to have gone the way of Katong laksa, with two similarly-named eateries now dishing out almost-identical menus and recipes. First came a gasp when Eng’s Wantan Noodles shuttered after a fiery business feud, and then relief when it reopened under new management. And then the direct descendants of founder Ng Ah Eng – opened Eng’s Char Siew Wantan Mee across the road, heralding debates over whose secret lard-slicked sauce was more umami and whose wantan plumper.

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