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MasterChef judge Melissa Leong was so moved by a contestant's dish on Thursday night's episode os the show, that she struggled to speak through her tears.
The 39-year-old food critic welled up while tasting a three-part meal by returning contestant Eric Mao, who was back to earn himself a second chance in the competition.
'Share our history'
Drawing on his Chinese heritage, Eric, 21, plated up Cha Xun Ji Dan (Tea-smoked eggs), Liang Ban Nen Doufu (Whole tofu with spring onion dressing) and Haitai Huasheng (Fried peanuts in seaweed).
The third-year medical student watched on as Melissa, whose own family comes from Singapore, became visibly emotional as she worked her way through each dish.
"What we have here is an opportunity, with cooking like this on this level, is to tell stories and to share our history," she began to say, before choking up.
"I watched [fellow judge] Jock plating up and I could smell the smells and I started to really feel it," she added.
Clearly overwhelmed with nostalgia and pride, Mel said she wanted to 'try to get through' the emotion and critique Eric's food.
"Starting with the peanuts... It's just such a Chinese thing no matter where it's been spread across the world.
"The egg, the jamminess of the yolk, and then you go on to the cold tofu. There's such humility in its plainness and its ability to take on flavour.
"My heart's beating. It's history. It's meaning. It's life."
Poh's heartwarming curry
It's not the first time Mel has broken down while tasting a contestant's dish. In 2020 during MasterChef: Back To Win, it was Poh Ling Yeow's Malaysian Nyonya chicken curry that brought more than a tear to Melissa's eye.
"I'm actually crying with joy," she said at the time, adding that it 'doesn't happen very often'.
Mel said that she was 'really proud' to be eating Southeast Asian cuisine such as Poh's and admitted that it reminded her of a very special family member that she hadn't seen in a long while due to the pandemic.
"I really miss my mum and this is the food she cooks," Melissa explained.
"Like the smell of that in the house on the weekend."
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