MasterChef India row after judges allow cheese to be used in fish round

Diced Paneer or cottage cheese in a green bowl - stock photo

On social media, the MasterChef India judges came under fire for allowing a vegetarian contestant to substitute cheese (paneer) for fish in a cooking challenge.

While four other cooks used salmon, Aruna Vijay used paneer in her effort to win an "immunity pin" that would prevent them from being knocked out.

The judges didn't provide a justification for their choice.

In the episode that aired on Friday, other competitors didn't appear to object.

Three renowned chefs are serving as judges for the current season of MasterChef India, which can be watched on the SonyLIV app. The judges are Vikas Khanna, Garima Arora, and Ranveer Brar.

The contentious choice, which was made in Episode 35, was presented in a straightforward manner, and Ms. Vijay didn't appear surprised to learn that she could use paneer.

According to reports, Ms. Vijay also refused to prepare an egg-based dish earlier in the show. She belongs to the Jain religion, a group of strict vegetarians.

On social media, some viewers criticized the recent decision, claiming that the judges had favored Ms. Vijay.

Others, however, commended her for maintaining her religious convictions.

The producers of the show and the judges have not yet responded to the criticism.

The judges gave Ms. Vijay's dish, stuffed squash with strawberry and basil sauce, mostly favorable reviews, and she finished second in the round.

Contrary to popular belief, only about 20% of Indians are vegetarians in reality, according to some studies. India is frequently stereotyped as a predominantly vegetarian nation.

However, due to political and religious fault lines, food, particularly meat, is frequently a contentious and divisive issue in the nation.

The MasterChef producers caused controversy in 2014 when they announced an all-vegetarian season of the program. The restriction was lifted after a few seasons.

However, although the show allows contestants to use seafood, eggs, and chicken in their recipes, beef and pork are never used.

The majority of Hindus in India revere the cow as a sacred animal. Pork is forbidden to Muslims according to Islamic law.

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