Airline Meals, Part Five: Ever Try Chinese Food? After This, You’ll Want to Say No

It’s that time of year again.  That is, it’s time to tempt you with various photos of airplane food from around the world.  Though, judging by the title of this entry, could you guess that we’ll focus on East Asia today?

Before you starting writing baleful comments in regards to the title, I’ll first attempt to curry your favor with a photo of a meal in economy class on a domestic US flight:


<insert blank space here>

Got you there!  We don’t get free meals anymore.  The joke’s on the airline too, because the food wasn’t going to be edible anyway.  If more (major) airports in the US opened supermarkets – miniature versions even – or failing that, if public transit could get us to nearby supermarkets, they’d receive their first compliment from me.

Enough of that, let’s get on to the main course.  As evidenced by the food & drink category to the right, eating is one of the motivating factors for me to travel.  Thus, the airplane food of the national carrier is potentially my first, your first (CheapOair can help out here) – and the first of thousands of others – introduction to that location’s cuisine.   So, that’s why I think someone airlines should add in a vocabulary checklist for pharmaceutical terms in their magazines…

Airlines such as China Southern.  This collection of recycled cooking oil served beneath a pile of mushy goo was my lunch between Shenzhen and Shanghai Hongqiao.  There’s more liquid in the plate than in the cup of milk.

What’s with the roll?  Does every airline around the world bow to the roll?  Even though it’s not a southern Chinese food, they could’ve gone with mantou instead.  Also, did you notice the tomatoes in the corner?  Yep, because they are botanically fruits, in China, they’ll be served as dessert, sometimes with granulated sugar liberally sprinkled about.

By the way, this was for breakfast.

Another roll!  We’re on China Southern again, but the roll’s presence can be slightly excused, since this time the flight’s from Los Angeles to Guangzhou.  Hence, a packet of US-brand Smuckers anxiously awaits its fate.  The rice porridge that proudly shows off the colors of the Irish flag is a hallmark of Cantonese breakfast, though when it is served plain, that usually means it’s a side dish.  Can’t wait to add that strawberry jam to it.


Oh, roll, you’re just too much.

This breakfast, between Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City, is with Cathay Pacific, a Hong Kong-based airline.  By what other hint can you guess that it’s from HK?  Mr. Juicy and its line-up of self-defeating sugary fruit drinks.
But if you said dim sum, that’s, mm, too broad.

Not to mention…really packing in the starch aren’t we?  Well, if you don’t want to get passengers to complain about seat width, I suggest that you stop serving the edible equivalent of seat belt extensions.

Finally, a good depiction of airplane food, and unsurprisingly, it’s Korean.  It’s fair to say that I really didn’t know much about Korean food before this flight between Hong Kong and Seoul Incheon, other than an infrequent bowl of bibimbap or grilled meat.  Asiana, the south Korean carrier, somehow knew this, and went so far as to include a guide.  How many spoons are there?  No matter, for bibimbap always comes with a long metal spoon.  A standard serving of kimchi and a tube of gochujang round out the honest look at Korean eats.

That is a good example of an introduction to a region’s or country’s culinary landscape.  Have you been similarly delighted or completely turned-off from a cuisine due to airplane food?

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15 Responses to Airline Meals, Part Five: Ever Try Chinese Food? After This, You’ll Want to Say No

  1. the worst one I’ve ever seen (so glad it wasn’t me who had to eat this!) was Air Canada, I think. For the meal they served… cheapest instant noodles

  2. Parking Lot says:

    that poor jelly…anxiously awaiting its fate. blogger must be some kind of a surrealist.

  3. Biscuit says:

    If you squint a little, some of these ALMOST look…edible? Yuck.

    • No tomatoes with sugar for you? It’s the highlight of flying in China.

      (OK, the one decent food I’ve eaten with a Chinese carrier was pickled kohlrabi, but it was probably a mistake)

  4. figtree23 says:

    I also recommend Korean Airlines for great airline food. I chose the Bibimbap while my wife chose the western meal. Best airline food I have ever had. We are flying JAL to Tokyo in May so looking forward to what I will have.

    • Thanks for your comment, figtree23! Do you have a picture of any of the Korean Air meals?

      If memory serves me right, JL had decent food, but what’s even better is their service. Do you and/or your wife speak Japanese?

      • figtree23 says:

        I did not take a photo of the Korean Air food but will take one of the JAL as I expect it to be very good. My wife is Japanese and I have finally convinced her to fly with her national airline. Will flick you the pics when we return.

  5. Pingback: It’s Food. You’re Supposed to Eat It. | Collateral Lettuce

  6. gkm2011 says:

    I think Singapore airlines economy class food is pretty decent and they serve ice cream!

  7. I had one of the worst airline meals ever on Delta last year when I asked for a salt-free, fat-free option. It was like the airline cooks admitting they can’t cook without over-salty, fatty food, Yuck.

  8. Pingback: Airline Meals, Part Six: Someone Else Had Too Much to Drink « buildingmybento


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