Bola House Chinese Takeaway, in Jessie Road, Southsea, is being scrutinised by health officials from Portsmouth City Council following the release of the photo last week on Facebook.
Reports made to the council claimed raw chicken had been left on pallets to defrost on the eatery’s roof.
But today the takeaway’s manager, Hailing Ao, insisted there had been a cultural mix-up and instead said the food was a bulk order of sweet potato, which she was preparing for her family – not for customers.
She told The News: ‘This is some sort of misunderstanding. This is sweet potato for our culture. It’s not chicken and not for customers.
‘Normally our parents from China send us dried sweet potato that we can add to rice.
‘The last couple of weeks have been really nice weather here so we decided to buy a lot of sweet potato and dry it out for ourselves.
‘It’s a really popular dish from China so we thought we could make it for ourselves this year rather than getting it sent from China.’
Images of the food were shared online by Southsea resident Leanne Chipper, who said she was concerned by what she saw.
The 40-year-old mum of two, of St Andrew’s Road, Southsea, said: ‘As a restaurant they shouldn’t have food on their roof at all. It’s sick.
‘I have been there a couple of times but definitely won't go there ever again.
‘If they think that food is acceptable to eat themselves then what do they do with food they give to their customers?
‘You could have birds flying and pooing on it. There could be flies landing on it. It’s just disgusting.’
Mrs Ao said the sweet potato store would last her for about a year and would be cooked into a rice porridge.
She added her trade had been hit since the images were shared and said: ‘We have lost a lot of business. We would never leave chicken on the roof.’
Steve Bell, regulatory services and primary authority lead at Portsmouth City Council, said his team was investigating the claims.
He added: ‘We received a complaint regarding Bola House takeaway today and will be investigating as a matter of urgency.’
During its last food hygiene inspection in March, Bola House received a rating of two out of a possible five, with inspectors saying it required improvement.
Monitors said ‘improvement was necessary' in the hygienic handling of food, it’s preparation, cooking, re-heating, cooling and storage.
Other areas, including cleanliness and condition of the building and management of food, were deemed ‘general satisfactory’.