Those of you who have had their fair share of airplane rides may have a thing or two to say about the in-flight meals. People often say that airline food is horrible but when I finally got to sample a few dishes during a couple of flights, I realized that some stories are a bit exaggerated. Perhaps it was just my luck that the airlines I have flown with served good food or I just ordered the right dish; either way, I have always had this notion that in-flight food are generally bad.
I have refrained from ordering heavy meals for shorter international/local routes (like Manila to Hong Kong or Manila to Kalibo) so I can only vouch for the very few instances wherein I had to endure a longer airplane trip. Nothing close to a transpacific flight, of course. In late 2015, I had the opportunity to go on two trips: one to Seoul, South Korea and the other one was to Osaka/Tokyo, Japan. And with those trips, the chance to sample airline food.
AirAsia’s Nasi Lemak:
For my trip to Seoul, I opted to book a flight with AirAsia, despite my fears of using their company (see: AirAsia Flight 8501). The main reason for my choice is simple; they were the cheapest I could find during the time I was booking my roundtrip tickets. During the booking process, I decided to pre-order the Nasi Lemak for the MNL-ICN route then I removed the meal option for the ICN-MNL route.
“A traditional Malaysian favourite fragrant coconut rice served with Pak Nasser’s special chilli sambal and tender chicken rendang, accompanied with traditional condiments of fried anchovies, crunchy groundnuts and half of a hard-boiled egg.” (AirAsia.com)
- Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to sample Nasi Lemak (authentic or otherwise) prior to me partaking of this in-flight meal. I, however, found the level of spiciness quite lovely. Yes, I said lovely because it is. And the spice did not overwhelm the other flavors in the dish for I clearly remember a bit of sweetness and a bit of [a] “curry flavor” (if that makes any sense) sipping through. It’s sad that I am unable to make a fair judgment of this traditional dish but the flavor dimension was there for sure.
- To say that the dish was fragrant is an understatement. I opened the foil container and ‘bam!’, it was an assault to my olfactory nerves. My mouth was watering the moment I saw the intense colors of the dish and with the wonderful smell wafting up to my face. The Nasi Lemak was very savory that the smell alone could use a spoonful of rice to go with it. Note: I could also clearly remember that the Nasi Lemak smell stayed [in my mouth] hours after I finished my meal. Not a complaint. Just saying.
- The chicken may have been a bit stringy (not totally dry) but that could very well be attributed to left over heat from when it was initially cooked and the addition of microwave heating during the flight. I also think that they can make their serving size juuuuust a tad bit bigger.
- I loved it so much that I decided to order it for my flight back to Manila, this time with a side of Calamansi Soda.
This airline took my breath away; first with the reasonably priced roundtrip, multi-city tickets, and secondly with the wonderful in-flight meals and snacks. We rode Economy all the way and having ridden only budget airlines before that trip, it felt like a big upgrade from what I’m used to. My friends and I were so glad that we chose to ride Cathay Pacific for our Japan trip.
I can’t find a Cathay Pacific meal menu so I’ll just go straight to the pictures.
Manila to Hong Kong:
- For my snack, I received this nifty little paper bag that contained an Anzac Cookie, a Mango Juice Box, a savory pie (like an Empanada), and an anti-bacterial moist towelette.
- The savory pie/empanada was surprisingly very good and quite large! Sadly, I was not able to take a picture of the actual pie but I think the filling was made out of chicken or pork; but definitely not beef or fish. I remember biting into it and getting this creamy, cheesy flavor immediately. I enjoyed the pie immensely. It paired very well with the Mango Juice, by the way.
- The Anzac Cookie was a revelation, atleast to me. Here’s why. First of all, I am biased towards Chocolate Chip Cookies. Second of all, I thought the Anzac Cookie looked dry and tasteless. Given the aforementioned, I decided to eat the cookie before the pie. You know how sometimes (in my case, always) you set aside the best part of your meal for later and start of with the less than satisfactory/not-as-wonderful part? Do you do that? Like how I set aside the crispy chicken skin and eat the meat first? Anyway, since I didn’t find the cookie looking anywhere near appetizing, I decided to start my meal by eating it first. And God Almighty that is probably one of the best tasting oat-based cookies I have ever tasted and eaten thus far.
Hong Kong to Osaka:
- After the wonderful snack I had during the MNL-HK leg of the flight, I didn’t expect that I would get have another meal. So while I was trying to get some much needed shuteye, ‘surprise’ came in the form of a mini-breakfast spread. I was given a bread roll and butter, a cup of Strawberry yogurt, a fruit cup, a bottle of water, and a dish composed of the following: ham, scrambled eggs, sautéed mushrooms, hasbbrown, and Cherry tomatoes.
- I didn’t really expect much taste-wise because it just typical morning fare after all. I love the fact that the spread makes for a sufficient continental breakfast. If memory serves me right, there was an option between continental and Chinese breakfast; the latter, I believe, has Congee. Nothing remarkable about it but I am just happy to have gotten another meal.
Tokyo to Hong Kong:
The male flight attendant who was assigned to our cabin couldn’t be anymore frustrated with us. I think. We were so tired from our trip that for every instance that he passed by, first to offer drinks and second to give us our meal, we were fast asleep. He had to repeat everything he had to say and in a much louder tone each time. Haha! So when he was going down the aisle to serve meals, he had to raise his voice and repeat, “Sir! Madam! Pork and Rice, or Fish and Rice?” He was not rude at all and his British accent was very soothing to the ears, despite what happened. Haha!
- For the Pork and Rice spread, I got the following: Pork Stew and white rice, a bread roll and butter, and salad. Soup might have been wonderful but this is a nice spread, nonetheless.
- I found this particular dish on the boundary of being bland. I would say that it’s a bit under-seasoned and may have benefited from a bit more salt and pepper, and maybe a dash of cayenne pepper (you must have cayenne pepper in your pantry, you MUST). The salad was forgettable, unfortunately. I can’t even remember what was in it. Maybe a leafy salad would have been a better alternative. The meal was hearty enough to sustain me until we landed in Hong Kong. The Pork, although sliced thinly, was not dry and the big chunks of root vegetables were a welcome site (and taste).
Hong Kong to Manila:
- The tiny paper bag was filled with magic because I got an anti-bacterial moist towelette, a Mango Juice Box, Cajun Chicken Lattice Pastry (magic!), and–drum roll, please–an Anzac Cookie (MORE magic!).
- The Cajon Chicken Lattice Pastry is everything a Hot Pocket would want to be. It made for a very filling and wonderfully tasty snack. Well-seasoned and moist, this pastry/pie made a great tandem with the Mango juice. I only wished I could have had seconds. I would have asked but something tells me my friends would have shunned me had I done so. They can ‘shun’ me next time because I WILL ask for seconds.
- This time, I saved the Anzac Cookie for last. And yes, it was heaven. 🙂
Understandably, there are people out there who would not appreciate the taste of airline food. I mean, not all my meals were winners but after getting a taste of it, I think that the claim that airline food is ‘the worst’ is grossly exaggerated. The in-flight meals that I have tasted thus far were not ‘horrible’ at all. Some could use more seasoning and some may need an upsize but overall, I’m pretty satisfied with them. If I do get the chance to fly internationally again, I would definitely pay closer attention to the meal/food service; not to complain but to find more good things I can say about it.
If you really do end up with a bad in-flight meal, think about this: you are sitting inside a pressurized cabin that is cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet. A dried piece of chicken breast should be the least of your worries.
The lack of Cathay Pacific’s Anzac Cookies* could very well do me in the next time I fly a different airline though.
*There are a lot of Anzac Cookie recipes available on YouTube and Google. I am aware that this is not a cookie unique to Cathay Pacific. 🙂