Health inspectors are putting the kibosh on kimchi, the fermented cabbage dish that's a staple of Korean cuisine, because they "don't understand what it is," say many Korean restaurant owners. Someone take the Health Department out for a night of grill-it-yourself Korean BBQ and soju-fueled karaoke, STAT!
The gist of the issue is that kimchi is usually left at room temperature, meaning it's above the DOH's 41-degree temperature requirement for cold foods. Inspectors have been violating and fining Korean restaurants across the city, which owners say is unfair, because kimchi has an acidity level below 4.6, meaning it's not hazardous. One health commissioner said he's willing to let kimchi slide if restaurant owners can prove it's acidity is below 4.6, but owners say they don't have the time or means to test every batch.
"Traditionally-prepared kimchi has been a staple of Korean food for thousands of years and has proven to have many health benefits. By fining restaurants for the way kimchi—and other fermented foods—are prepared, the Health Department is essentially forcing us to dissolve an ancient practice that is at the core of Korean cuisine," said Ja-Boon Kwak, owner of Kang Suh restaurant in Koreatown. Chinese restaurants with hanging ducks and pizza parlors with slice displays have been subject to similar fines from the DOH, who might be a little too obsessed with the "danger zone" (this one, not this one).