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

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

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

As they competed to win an "immunity pin" that would prevent them from being knocked out, Aruna Vijay used paneer while the other four cooks used salmon.

The judges failed to provide an explanation for their choice.

In the Friday night episode, the other competitors didn't appear to object.

Vikas Khanna, Garima Arora, and Ranveer Brar are the three renowned chefs serving as judges for the current season of MasterChef India, which is available to watch on the SonyLIV app.

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

According to reports, Ms. Vijay had earlier in the show declined to prepare a dish that contained eggs. She is a Jain, a group well known for being strict vegetarians.

On social media, some viewers accused the judges of favoring Ms. Vijay in response to the recent decision, which drew some criticism.

Others, on the other hand, praised her for maintaining her religious convictions.

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

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

Numerous studies have cast doubt on the widespread perception of India as a vegetarian nation; some researchers even claim that only about 20% of Indians actually identify as vegetarians.

But because of the country's political and religious divisions, food, particularly meat, is frequently a contentious and divisive issue.

After two seasons, the restriction was lifted. In 2014, the MasterChef producers caused controversy by announcing an all-vegetarian season of the show.

Beef and pork are never used on the show, but contestants are allowed to use eggs, chicken, and seafood.

The cow is revered as a sacred animal by the Hindu majority in India. Muslims are not permitted to eat pork, according to Islamic law.

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