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A New York Times chicken curry recipe is causing international uproar as Singaporeans call it ‘brown slush’

February 11, 2022, 6:14 PM UTC

A seemingly innocuous chicken recipe has kicked off an international uproar. 

The furor erupted on social media earlier this month, after the hugely popular New York Times cooking site (3.4 million followers on Instagram alone) posted a video describing how to make “Singaporean chicken curry,” or rather, what it called Singaporean chicken curry.

The response from Singaporeans was immediate, and brutal. 

“If my great-grandmother saw your recipe like this, she would climb out of her grave, bless her soul, with a slipper in her hand, and whack you in the head,” said YouTuber Kim Huat.

“This was no curry, it was brown slush,” wrote Channel News Asia columnist Lin Suling. “When a foreign publication represents us in a dish that looks way off, you can bet your last chicken wing we’re not going to mince our words.”

Even the usually calm Singapore Civil Defence Force, tasked with managing natural and man-made mishaps and crises, joined in the chorus, reminding people on Twitter to avoid “culinary disasters in your kitchen,” by turning off the stove.

On Friday, the Times removed the offending video from its site, but left a new version of the recipe, which it said it had “clarified” after the blast of criticisms. “We’re appreciative of your response,” the media company wrote on Instagram.

Although the New York Times might be the latest to rile food sensitivities, it is not the first, and most likely not the last. In an increasingly international world, online chefs are getting into big trouble over how they interpret other nations’ cuisine.

Social media catastrophes

Even supposedly satirical food takes, in which people intentionally ruin traditional recipes, have elicited very real responses on social media.

In 2020, a furious argument erupted after a tongue-in-cheek how-to video showed an American mother and daughter making “British tea,” an unappealing cup filled with milk and a limp tea bag that they put in the microwave. 

“This is criminal,” one Twitter user wrote, echoing dozens of outraged comments. “If you’re going to post videos like this, at least educate yourself a little bit!” said another. It was left unclear whether the tea maker was being serious or not.

Even the big names have gotten in trouble 

Some of the biggest culinary stars have offended deep sensitivities.

This week, Italians spewed angrily over a spaghetti recipe by Nigella Lawson, a British cooking icon, whose recipe books and TV shows are devoured by millions. Lawson used Marmite, a salty, yeast-based sandwich spread, offending pasta lovers across Italy. 

“Worse than pineapple pizza,” sniffed Italian food writer Nico Cristiani on Wednesday.

Another iconic British chef, Jamie Oliver, sparked fury in Spain in 2016, when he suggested adding chorizo to the country’s cherished national dish, paella. Originating from the eastern province of Valencia, paella is traditionally made with rice, fish, chicken, and olive oil.

That came just months after Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay, also British, tossed chili peppers into paella during a TV cooking show. 

“It’s never too late to confuse Spain with Mexico, Spain’s El País quipped in disgust

Officials in Valencia have clearly had enough. On Wednesday, after years of railing over how their regional dish was being changed by non-Spanish chefs, they published an eight-page edict, granting paella protected status, akin to a national landmark. The idea is to preserve the traditional recipe, and so protect it from “distortions that could result from mass tourism,” according to the document published in the province’s official journal. The dish, it says, symbolizes the region’s “art of unity and sharing.”

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