Five airlines offering special Asian food onboard

7 Nov 2012

Asian cuisines are among the best in the world, offering an incredible variety of different dishes and flavours. Now you don’t need to wait until you’ve settled into your hotel to explore all this fantastic food. These airlines offer tantalising tastes of different Asian countries before you’ve even touched the ground.


The dishes: Dongchimi noodles (left) and nutritious rice (right). 

What are they? Dongchimi is a traditional Korean noodle soup consisting mainly of radish kimchi. The piquant flavour of the soup and savoury taste of the noodles work in delicious harmony. Nutritious rice is a rice medley with cooked autumn squash, chestnut, jujube, ginkgo, sweet rice, pine nuts and brown rice presented in an autumn squash cup.

Why were they chosen? “[The dishes] have been optimised for the unique environment of in-flight, we expect that the two new menus will be loved by not only Koreans but also by travellers from around the world,” said Kibeom Choi, the airline’s public relations officer. He added that the Dongchimi soup contained digestive enzymes that could have a settling effect for long-haul traveller’s stomachs.

“These two new menus have been developed in line with our continued efforts to serve a role as a Korean cultural ambassador.” 

Who gets to enjoy them? First and prestige class passengers on flights to and from the Americas and Europe.


The dishes: Noriben lunchbox (left) and Japanese cheeses (right).

What are they?  The cheeses are made at dairy farms in Japan in different styles, offering unique flavours such as those from the yeast of miso (fermented mixture of rice, barley and/or soybeans) and sake (Japanese rice wine). The Noriben is a lunchbox that has nori, a dried seaweed which is an indispensable ingredient in Japanese cuisine known for its curative properties, served with steamed rice and side dishes such as grilled fish or meat in a typical Japanese style lunch box (bento). 

Why were they chosen:  “We are constantly striving to provide our customers with a refreshingly good experience whenever they fly with JAL,” says Yumi Yokoyama lead cabin attendant in JAL’s product and service strategy division, who is also a certified Cheese sommelier. “At the same time, as an airline established in Japan, we hope to promote the excellence of Japanese cheese to our customers and have thus carefully selected a platter of locally-produced cheese for their in-flight dining pleasure.” 

Who gets to enjoy them? Japanese cheeses are available in first and executive class on flights from Narita to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Jakarta, and in executive class on flights from Narita to Boston, Vancouver, Sydney, Bangkok, New Delhi, Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur. 

Noriben is available on premium economy and economy classes on flights from Haneda to San Francisco, Bangkok and Singapore.


The dishes: Sugpo with taba ng talangka (left) and Manok sa tanglad (right).

What are they? Sugpo with taba ng talangka are tiger prawns cooked in a style similar to a thermidor but using crab fat instead of the cheese crust. Manok sa tanglad is grilled (barbequed) pieces of chicken with lemongrass.

Why were they chosen? “Based on feedback from passengers, they have a certain longing for Filipino food, along the lines of comfort food – when they see a dish and get some memories of home. We also wanted to elevate Filipino cuisine in the international arena. Thailand did this with the support of its government and we wanted to do the same.”  

Dishes are chosen for their suitability to inflight service as well as inflight kitchen preparation… We choose dishes that are convenient for the crew to serve and can adapt to the holding time. Also, when you’re at 37,000 feet, it has effects on your taste buds, so things are less potent and the flavours must be very strong,” says Maria Criselda Abantao Rayos, manager of food planning and standards at PAL. 

Who gets to enjoy them? These dishes will be served from April 2013 in business class on flights to the US.


The dishes: Stir-fried chicken with gingko nut in X.O. sauce (left) and Roasted chicken with preserved red bean curd (right).

What are they? The dishes are on menus created for the airline by celebrated Taiwanese restaurants (see here). Stir-fried chicken with gingko nut in X.O. sauce was created by Chinese Sky Restaurant in Kaohsiung’s Han-Hsien International Hotel. Gingko nuts are commonly used in Chinese cooking and have a distinctive taste, while X.O. sauce has spicy seafood flavours. Roasted chicken with preserved red bean curd was created by Ji-Pin-Shuan Restaurant, a well-know eatery in Taipei. The bean curd has a strong, pungent flavour. 

Why were they chosen? “In Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing we also partner famous restaurants. We want to offer our passengers some local flavours, bringing new ideas and surprises. The restaurants in different cities all have their own strengths and local tastes. We want to introduce these to our passengers and to give them some variety, especially the frequent travellers,” said an airline spokesperson.

“Various factors were taken into consideration when designing the menu and preparing dishes due to constraints of inflight environment. Firstly, as human’s taste buds become less sensitive at higher altitude, dishes served inflight usually have stronger flavour than those served on ground…. Secondly, to meet the preference of most passengers, deep-fried foods and very spicy dishes are usually avoided on the inflight menu. Thirdly, as food served inflight has to be reheated, juicy meat such as beef shank and mutton are ideal choices of ingredient,” said Kim Chong, manager of catering for Dragonair  

Who gets to enjoy them? Passengers on flights flying out of Taipei and Kaohsiung to Hong Kong (for more details see here).


The dishes: Satay (left) and Nasi Lemak (right)

What are they? Satay are skewers of chicken, beef or lamb that have been marinated, with fresh shallots, turmeric, garlic, galangal and lemongrass and then grilled on a charcoal fire and basted as they are turned. They are normally served hot, complemented with mild spicy peanut sauce and other condiments of freshly cut cucumber, tangy raw onion chunks and white rice. Nasi lemak is rice cooked in coconut milk served with prawns and anchovies sambal (a kind of curry sauce).

Why were they chosen? “Malaysia Airlines wanted to provide choices and a variety of dishes to cater to our multi-racial passengers. Also, the inflight meals offer a platform for us to promote Malaysian food to a wide audience,” said a spokesperson for the airline.

“We chose these items by tapping into our chefs’ expertise, understanding our passenger profiles by route, and getting continuous feedback and input from cabin crew and passengers.” 

Who gets to enjoy them? Satay are available to all the airline’s first-class passengers and to business-class passengers on selected routes. Nasi Lemak is offered in first, business and economy classes on some routes.

Nicholas Olczak 

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