Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Safety Sani Meets Dim Sum

All my life, I have gone out for dim sum with my parents. There is a certain level of comfort in the knowledge that some things have never changed. For instance, as half Cantonese children of restaurant parents, we never questioned the safety sani factor of Chinese food --how long those ducks and squab hung at room temperature until they were purchased and consumed, if those huge rounds of wood that served as chopping blocks were ever bleached, the shelf life or water activity of the slew of sweet and savory snacks that were manufactured under questionable and mysterious circumstances somewhere across the ocean, and hey, aren't those scissors for cutting paper?

When I studied to be a chef at the CCA a few decades ago, I diligently memorized food borne bacteria, temps, and the potential of cross contamination. In my work, I have always practiced the highest standards of safety and sanitation, whether the job was an intimate tasting menu for four or when producing a multi-course food and wine pairing for hundreds in a field...without electricity...or running water.

Somehow, to this day, when my family goes out for dim sum, my education and training on safety and sanitation flies out of my head. I don't think twice about munching on that last black bean chicken's foot, even (heaven forbid if I were in China), that cold dish of jellyfish whatnot. However, on my last visit, I was wrested from sinking comfortably into my Old World reverie by our server appearing at table side, sporting a very high tech poly carbon sneeze guard mask. At first, I was amused, but then as I thought about it, I tipped my hat in silent solidarity.

Recently, I consulted for a restaurant. Some of my observations of safety and sanitation were alarming. I would venture a cash wager that the some of the sanitation standards were below those of the dim sum palace that my parents and I frequent. Maybe that is why many
 of the centuries old cooking techniques still stand. And maybe, that is why I have never been ill from eating dim sum.

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