I am not in any way trying to sound racist, because I’m not racist, but the fact of the matter is that foreign supermarkets (particularly Asian ones) are often notorious for being a bit sketchy in terms of cleanliness and health inspections. Out of curiosity I made the trek to the Kam Man Marketplace in Quincy, MA, which is a massive supermarket that carries Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, etc products. In the meat section I noticed that they sell pig trotters (pig feet), along with a multitude of other freaky-awesome stuff like cow uterus, tripe, pig intestine, etc. All the meat is packaged just like the meat in American supermarkets, with the plastic wrap over the foam tray, and they all have proper labels with weight, dates, etc. Also all of the meat says either “product of USA” or “product of Canada”. But several reviewers on Yelp have warned people NOT to buy the meat there, as it is often out of date and rotting.
However, for a while now I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making homemade ramen, which requires cooking pig trotters for about 40 hours at a rolling boil. All of the recipes call for pig trotters instead of other parts of the pig. Since I have never seen pig trotters sold in regular American supermarkets, I am tempted to go back there and buy some, but a little voice in my head keeps telling me that I’ll catch some horrible disease from them. Another little voice in my head tells me that as long as I handle the raw meat with gloves and disinfect my sink and anything else it has touched, I should be fine, since any bacteria and/or parasites will be obliterated by the 40-hour-long cooking time.
What should I do? I’ve been craving this stuff for a long time, and going out to a ramen shop is damn expensive for the type of ramen I’m craving. Should I go for the gusto and get me some damn pig trotters, or should I not risk my life?
Seems to me the trotters could have been kept in the toilet before cooking and you still wouldn’t have any risk after boiling for that long! (Might taste icky if they had gone bad before cooking, but that’s a different issue).
The really bad one I would guess Filipino. Otherwise, it was a general mix of "ethnic"stores of varying sizes.
In general, it was a more casual approach to sanitation/food preservation than you would find at Safeway or Raley’s.
Most common was the walk-in cooler would be 45-50F rather than 40 or below. You could often smell the spoiling dairy and cleaning the walk-in was a sometime thing. Leaving footprints in the layer of slime doesn’t do much for confidence.
Foreign supermarkets are everywhere here in Northern Virginia. I have asked myself the same question.
The Latino maket near my house - the beef and chicken looks, well, different from my usual supermarket. The Asian market a few miles way has an amazing array of seafood, some of it wierdly cut or completely foreign, but at great prices. Somehow, in my mind, it is all lower quality. It’s either because I’m so used to the perfectly packaged, pricey items at the Safeway or, I’ll confess, a vague feeling that ‘those people’ have lower standards. None the less, I buy meat and fish from both places and the quality is always as good or better that the local store. I make special trips to the Asian market just for the fish.
I can’t believe there’s a question like this about pig’s feet. I was surprised late in life to find out that non-Americans ate them too. You can find them in jars, pickled, in any store south of the Mason-Dixon.
I buy meat from them all the time, mostly to feed raw to my dog and cat. They can be very sketchy. For myself, with my inferior stomach acid, I wouldn’t eat anything cooked rare - but boiling stuff for hours, of course you’ll be fine.
I generally feel like Americans are way too paranoid about food safety and cleanliness, especially when it comes to animal products. Laws and recommendations are much more relaxed in other countries, including European ones, and I’m very relaxed about it in my own kitchen (pay no attention to dates, just smells, raw meats everywhere!) and I have had zero problems. It’s pretty rare to get serious food-borne illnesses, and most outbreaks I can remember in the past 10 years in the USA were traced back to fresh produce.
Plenty are produce-related, but there are still quite a few cases that come from meat. Wikipedia has a fairly extensive list. Tip: If you happen to find a beached whale, you might want to avoid eating it.
FWIW, local food maven Tyler Cowen enthusiastically recommends shopping at Asian grocery stores.
The New York Times has reported a few times on the ongoing difficulties some Asian restaurants have with some aspects of the city’s food-handling codes: Chinese restaurants hang ducks in the window at room temperature for hours, Korean restaurants ferment kimchi at room temperature; sushi chefs don’t wear gloves.
I eat from ethnic markets, Asian or otherwise, and have never had an issue. Now, I don’t eat rare steak from there, but that’s mostly because they don’t have the same cuts or the steak is decidedly not choice or above in grading, so what’s the point? But for pork, stewing beef, chicken, fish, etc., it’s fine.
And I ferment kimchi (and other pickles) at room temperature, too. Once it’s fermented for a few days, that’s when it gets thrown into the fridge.
I have a jar of kimchi on my kitchen counter right now! Another day or two and it should be ready. It’s expensive to buy, and sooooooo easy and cheap to make it myself.
Several years ago, I was in an Asian market in Madison, WI that I suspected by the smell did their own butchering. I asked the people behind the counter, but they didn’t speak enough English to answer my question. They had things on display like duck heads and “chicken balls”, which was the oviduct with all the embryonic eggs attached. I’ve been told that these are delicious; they were yolk-only and ranged in size from a BB to a large marble. Since I was on vacation and didn’t have a cooler with me, I only purchased packaged items.
There’s a local market that I believe does this too. You can get durian there, too; it’s kept in the freezer case, and even frozen smells like sweaty gym socks. I know a lady who was born in the Philippines, and she said she loves it.
Just about all the Asian markets here in Little Rock, Arkansas have all sorts of things on their shelves that are past their expiration date. Whether it comes in a can or is refrigerated I have to double check to make sure it hasn’t expired. When I look for frozen meats I will often times find some that aren’t quite frozen. i.e. Instead of a solid frozen block of meat or seafood it’ll be mushy. So even if I see meat that isn’t past the expiration date I have no confidence that it hasn’t been thawed and refrozen a few times. No thanks.
If you’re really that sketched out by the ethnic grocery store, your local white people supermarket either has them but does not put them out for sale, or they can order them for you. When I worked for Safeway (in Maryland) that’s the sort of thing our butchers would keep in the back and keep for themselves.