If you’re confused about the health code status of those shiny roasted duck carcasses hanging in the windows of your favorite Chinatown joints in Manhattan, so is the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, according to a recent report in Open City.
Ten years ago, the DOH deemed the ducks in violation because the meat was not being kept at the adequate temperature of 140 degrees (which would dry out the meat). But then, the DOH changed its mind. Food and science writer Dave Arnold explained:
The fact of the matter is that they cook the crap out of it, the skin is dry, they baste it when it’s up on the thing so there’s very little water activity, and the stuff underneath has been killed pretty good.
And so, the shops could have choices other than being slapped over and over with hefty fines. They could get some display-only ducks or follow a very hard, NASA-enthused HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point) protocol. While organizations like the Chinatown Business Improvement District (BID) are working to improve the local restaurants’ relationship with the DOH, however, “ethnic” restaurants around the city still earn lower grades. A greater conversation about food safety and the possibilities of relatively safe cuisine sacrificed to bureaucratic othering seems necessary.