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US Blogger Accuses Alvin Quah From Masterchef Of Plagarism

A twitter war has broken out this evening with US food Blogger Rasa Malaysia accusing Masterchef Australia’s Season Two contestant Alvin Quah of plagarism.

@Rasa Malaysia has said Alvin’s recipe of Black Sesame Seed Dumplings with Ginger Syrup is almost word for word like hers. Alvin who tweets as @Cinnamon Pig denied he plagarised her recipe.

The exchange went like this:

Alvin’s response:

Rasa Malaysia’s recipe is here, and Alvin’s recipe is here on his blog at Cinnamon Pig. He also cooked the dish on a Masterchef Masterclass here. Since my knowledge on Malaysian cuisine is limited I don’t know if this is  well known dish and it is possible they had the same recipe or if it is an unusual recipe.

Plagarism of content from the internet is rife in all areas, however the interesting issue raised here is whether someone has ‘rights’ over a recipe. What do you think?

35 comments

1 littlepetal { 10.03.11 at 9:36 pm }

Black sesame dumpling is a very common dessert in Malaysia and Singapore. Serving them in a pandan and ginger syrup is quite normal too. When some dishes are so common, it is difficult to say who copy who. Rasa Malaysia didn’t give credit to anyone for the recipe and the recipe is not new. Poh also has the Black Sesame Dumpling in her cookbook.

2 Georgie { 10.03.11 at 9:42 pm }

It’s a tough call to claim ownership of a recipe. They are part of folklore, shared around among friends and passed down through generations. They cross borders and cultures getting tweaked along the way. If you’ve ever ‘improved’ a recipe it becomes yours until the next person changes it.

3 Jess { 10.03.11 at 10:28 pm }

If Rasa Malaysia had any manners and professionalism, she would personally contact Alvin about this matter rather than air it all out publicly on twitter for all her sycophants and disillusioned followers to stroke her ego. Plagiarism is not on but neither is cyber bullying. Frankly her behaviour is uglier. And as if every recipe on her website is 100% original.

Chin up Alvin. Don’t let the bullies get you down.

4 Jo { 10.04.11 at 1:00 am }

Not only is this a common dessert in Malaysia and Singapore like littlepetal said, it’s also very common in China too especially around Chinese New Year season. So let’s think about how many Chinese people there are and how many of them would potentially be making this. The method is pretty straight forward; both of these sound like how I’d make it and how my mum used to make it. Plagiarism isn’t cool but I don’t know how Rasa Malaysia can justify claiming ownership of a recipe for such a widely cooked dish, especially seeing as it is a relatively simple dish with little ingredients.

5 mary { 10.04.11 at 3:50 am }

i don’t think anyone is arguing whether or not this is an original recipe with original ingredients, but rather whether it was truly written by the new author based on his mother’s version of this dish. it seems nearly impossible for two independent people to write a general recipe in such a similar manner in terms of language and measuring amounts.

6 Karen { 10.04.11 at 10:00 am }

Jess, it is funny how whistle-blowing plagiarism can be perceived as cyber-bullying behavior. Your one short comment has insulted her millions of readers and fans including me. We are not sycophants nor disillusioned. The two recipes are posted online to be compared and verified. We form our own opinions. Calling someone behaving ugly online? Who is the cyber bully here?!

7 asd { 10.04.11 at 12:00 pm }

So yeh ummmmm when were recipes subject to copyright? The woman is out of her mind.

8 MLM { 10.04.11 at 12:36 pm }

Karen – you’re funny. And stupid. We should totally be friends.

9 Lesllie { 10.04.11 at 3:17 pm }

The case of plagiarism is tenuous. The thing with dumplings is, the ratios to make them are usually around the same. There’s a few word for words – but there’s only so many ways to advise how to lightly toast sesame seeds until the aroma comes through, or that five cups of water will reduce. There is also a slight variation of ingredients.

When I search this recipe, there were tonnes of results. Echoing what other comments said – this recipe is common. It’s like the asian version of a brownie. Look up the recipe of a chocolate brownie, and you’re guaranteed to find a few that are nearly identical.

I wouldn’t have chipped in, but twitter wars piss me off. If this is a professional matter, deal with it professionally. Don’t sic your twitter followers on another blogger. That makes YOU the attention seeking, sad person.

10 Culinary Boner { 10.04.11 at 4:56 pm }

Sorry Alvin, I’m siding with the hot chick on this one.

11 Karen { 10.04.11 at 7:32 pm }

This is a great article explaining the fine line between claiming copyright and plagiarism:

http://www.gregoiremichaud.com/archives/4058

Looking at some of the above comments, Alvin does have some rabid supporters. Birds of the same feather flock together. Nuffield said.

12 the sims social cheats { 10.05.11 at 4:26 am }

it’s a recipe, how can someone patent or copyright a recipe. ofcourse recipes will be the same and can be the same word for word, I mean, how else can you say saute your garlic or boil the water.

13 Mac { 10.05.11 at 10:39 am }

Recipes itself can’t be copyrighted. Why do you think KFC and Coke has never released their secret recipe.

14 gopher { 10.05.11 at 4:16 pm }

A list of ingredients cannot be copyrighted, but the instructions can. The dish is common enough that the list of ingredients can be found all over the Internet. But the words that Rasa Malaysia used to describe how to put that dish together – those are hers and they are copyrighted. Alvin took the ingredients AND the instructions and put them on his website, changing a few sentences here and there. If you compare the two recipes, you can see that the similarities in writing are too obvious to be coincidence.

He should have just said, “mea culpa” and put the attribution on his site. But instead he denies he stole the recipe and blocks Rasa from his Twitter. It strikes me as just amateurish behavior.

As for Rasa calling him out on it, that may be unprofessional but I’d hardly call it cyber-bullying.

15 zephyr308 { 10.05.11 at 8:24 pm }

I can’t say I agree with either Rasa Malaysia’s assertions or the way she has handled this. Tang Yuan/Black Sesame Dumplings is a common recipe, there are few ingredients, the taste is very specific and proportions to the outcome of the dessert are key. If you start with 250g of glutinous rice flour, the other proportions follow from there to maintain balance of flavour. Many brands of glutinous rice flour are sold in 500g packets so it is common sense to have 250g as the starting point of the recipe. Tang Yuan/Black Sesame dumplings have been around for years so to claim plagiarism asserts authorship which is a stretch for something which has been around for so long. I looked at both recipes side by side and while there are similarities in the ingredients and proportions, there are distinct differences. I then googled ‘black sesame dumplings’ and what do you know? More recipes which have the same proportions for water, sesame seeds, sugar and unsalted butter and very similar steps for preparation. I won’t name this site here- lets not make this an even bigger unnecessary epic than it deserves to be- but I agree with the other comments that Rasa Malaysia’s approach has not been professional and she would have earned my respect and credibility had she approached Alvin directly like an adult. Instead we have tweet after tweet which just smacks of ‘Lookatme! Lookatme! Lookatme!’. Hell, I would have blocked her on Twitter as well. Rasa Malaysia, be happy, write your blog and have people follow your recipes for the right reasons.

16 Georgie { 10.05.11 at 8:57 pm }

Maybe Rasa could go visit some kids in the cancer ward at the local hospital to take her mind off all these dumpling problems.

17 Cindy { 10.05.11 at 9:33 pm }

As a friend of Rasa Malaysia, I no longer want to keep my silence.

Alvin has been approached professionally on this matter. A Rasa Malaysia’s reader with the initial J.G. (real name and real person) has contacted Alvin via email when he discovered both recipes were almost identical. He received no response from Alvin. Alvin can deny all he wants but he should know that this is nothing but the truth.

Character assassination is low act. Especially when it is done on purpose to divert the attention from the real issue and when it is carried out behind anonymity.

18 Lagrossebrioche { 10.05.11 at 10:21 pm }

There can be copyright in a recipe but it is important to remember that copyright does not exist in ideas but in the expression of ideas. The methodolgy for each recipe is expressed differently. It is not surprising to find two recipes with a similar structure but there are a number of differences in the expression of the ideas despite the similar structure. Legally it would be almost impossible to state that there was copyright breach unless you could establish direct copying.

19 zephyr308 { 10.05.11 at 10:32 pm }

Cindy, I can’t speak for the other contributors however my reference to the lack of professional conduct I consider from Rasa Malaysia is her decision to address this issue on Twitter as she did rather than to proactively seek to resolve personally. Re-reading the Twitter comments, I continue to consider these provocative and to be frank, childish in tone. As a blogger, Rasa Malaysia – and her followers- need to acknowledge universal agreeance or support will rarely be forthcoming. You may disagree with my views but my interpretation is just as valid as the next person’s. My intention was not to divert attention from the alleged ‘plagiarism’ but rather to make the point that there are numerous other recipes available for Black Sesame Dumplings which contain identical ingredient proportions and very similar preparation steps. Tang Yuan is not an original recipe of Rasa Malaysia, at best this is an interpretation of a classic- and widely cooked- asian sweet dish with countless similar recipes of Tang Yuan/Black Sesame dumplings in circulation for years prior to submission by Rasa Malaysia onto her blog.

20 Culinary Boner { 10.06.11 at 9:29 am }

Good call, Georgie.
FFS everyone, you’re squabbling about a fucking dumpling recipe, not some earth-shattering innovation that would be truly worthy of global intellectual property protection.
Get a grip….no000…not on that.

21 Georgie { 10.06.11 at 9:43 am }

Thanks CB, I’m pleased someone else is over it!

22 Joanne { 10.06.11 at 4:20 pm }

Rasa Malaysia reposted the recipe today: http://rasamalaysia.com/black-sesame-dumplings-tang-yuan/, with a link to the screen grabs (before Alvin hastily changed his): http://rasamalaysia.com/images/black-sesame-dumplings/black_sesame_dumplings.jpg

Now who is bluffing who?

23 Jon { 10.06.11 at 4:22 pm }

The recipe that Alvin posted is way too similar to Bee’s recipe to be a coincidence, like he claims. While the dessert is common in Malaysia, each person has their own take on how to make it.

24 Jess { 10.06.11 at 11:03 pm }

Wow just when I thought that Rasa Malaysia couldn’t get more childish. I’m not excusing Alvin (if it is indeed true) but jesus, it’s not like he ran over her puppy. Her behaviour is frankly turning me off way more than Alvin’s.

25 Jen { 10.07.11 at 5:20 am }

Okay, people who keep bringing up the issue of how no recipes can be copyrighted, you miss the point. Rasamalaysia didn’t react in response to Alvin having or even publishing a recipe similar to hers; she has pointed out how the composition of Alvin’s recipe (and I use the term “Alvin’s recipe” loosely here) is too similar to hers to be merely a coincidence. In other words, she claims no ownership of the recipe. She merely claims ownership of her original (as far as we know anyway) recipe composition including the method of preparation. And she has every right to feel violated.

Sure, two mothers can be making the same dessert. That’s not the point. But two recipes written independently of one another can’t possibly have these many similarities and word for word duplicates. Unless you’re in deep denial, you’ll see what I see which is that when Alvin composed his recipe, he had in front of him the same recipe previously published on Rasamalaysia. Excusing himself by saying his mother makes the same dessert is beside the point and totally lame.

Legally speaking, Alvin has changed the original composition enough to get away with it. But ethically speaking, this is so friggin lame.

Shame on you, Alvin. Come out and apologize already. The jig is up.

26 Culinary Boner { 10.07.11 at 8:59 am }

Send in the UN peacekeepers…we have a situation

27 Georgie { 10.07.11 at 9:24 am }

I think this situation between Rasa and Alvin can only be settled with a duel. Dumplings at 50 paces.

28 Reality Raver { 10.07.11 at 10:07 am }

Georgie – now that would make great tv

29 James { 10.07.11 at 3:13 pm }
30 Culinary Boner { 10.07.11 at 3:27 pm }

Watch our Alvin, this is getting to the point where the Piranha Brothers are like to be contracted to “seek justice” for your alleged crimes against dumpling copyrighting…

“Interviewer: I understand he (Dinsdale Piranha) also nailed your wife’s head to a coffee table. Isn’t that true Mrs O’ Tracy?
Mrs O’ Tracy: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Stig: Well he did do that, yeah. He was a hard man. Vicious but fair
(Cut back to vince)
Interviewer: Vince, after he nailed your head to the floor, did you ever see him again
Vince: Yeah…..after that I used to go round his flat every Sunday lunchtime to apologise and we’d shake hands and then he’d nail my head to the floor
Interviewer: Every Sunday?
Vince: Yeah but he was very reasonable. Once, one Sunday I told him my parents were coming round to tea and would he mind very much not nailing my head that week and he agreed and just screwed my pelvis to a cake stand instead”

31 Jess { 10.09.11 at 11:19 pm }

I agree with you James, damn that infernal Calvin!

32 Anonymous { 03.05.12 at 7:13 am }

ALVIN MUST WIN IF NOT THEN SCREW THE JUDGES!

33 Thy { 09.23.13 at 12:00 am }

Funny how bee would get so upset over this incident when she herself copied and stole from another food blogger, Ellie of almost bourdain. To all of Ellie’s supporters, please know that the current almost Bourdain site is not Ellie. Bee has stolen her entire blog content and is passing it as her own to make money off the ads. What you are doing bee is absolutely disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself!

34 Figpot { 09.23.13 at 6:00 am }

Wow! Bee yinn low of Rasa Malaysia sure has thick skin to accuse others of plagiarising when she herself has stolen blog content from Ellie of Almost Bourdain!!! This woman has no shame in stealing another bloggers work & identity she thinks she owns all the recipes from almostbourdain.blogspot.com. Grow up Bee you are disgracing yourself & God knows what other recepies on Rasa Malaysia has been stolen off some poor blogger! Boo to u Bee.

35 Thy { 09.27.13 at 7:59 pm }

Check out
http://getoffmyinternets.net/forums/food-bloggers/rasa-malaysia-bee-yinn-low-gomi/

Bee really needs to answer to this. What she accused alvin of doing is a drop in the ocean compared to what she has done.