Gastronomes tickled pink by creative in-flight menus

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Gastronomes tickled pink by creative in-flight menus

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From left : Chicken produced on a farm owned by Korean Air in Jeju is served to passengers in first-class. Kimchi soup will again be a main menu option for first -class passengers on Asiana Airlines flights in September and October. The airline introduced the menu in March. Singapore Airlines uses a team of world-famous chefs including Britain’s Gordon Ramsay to conjure up its meals.


Airlines are diversifying their in-flight meals to attract more passengers. Even kimchi, despite its pungent odor, became a staple food on Asiana Airlines flights in March.

Kimchi soup was served to passengers riding first-class on a pre-order basis, but proved so popular that people of all nationalities starting trying to order it on the spot.

“In-flight meals have become one of the fun parts of a trip and one of the major factors in evaluating each airline’s service,” said an official in the airline industry. “That’s why each airline is making an effort to develop a variety of menus to differentiate their service.”

Korean Air has 100 in-house chefs to create new in-flight meal menus. The nation’s flagship airline opened an in-flight meal center in Seoul in 2001, which can produce 55,000 meals a day. Early this year, it set a record by churning out 63,000 in a single day.

The center serves 37 airlines that operate at Incheon International Airport and uses chicken and beef from its own farm in Jeju.

Asiana Airlines also has its own menu development division.

It has introduced a number of local and international children’s dishes including tteokbokki, or rice cake served with hot pepper sauce, as well as hot dogs and chicken nuggets.

To satisfy western palates, it is working with Italian restaurant La Cucina and star chef Edward Kwon, who runs several restaurants in Korea including Eddy’s cafe in Gangnam, southern Seoul.

Foreign air carriers are also researching how to better accommodate passengers’ tastes. Singapore Airlines has gathered world famous chefs, including Britain’s Gordon Ramsay and Japan’s Yoshihiro Murata, to diversify its in-flight meals.

Moreover, the airlines are competing to prepare a broader selection of drinks to match their meal choices.

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From left:Sulbbang, or bread fermented with Makgeolli, Korea’s traditional rice wine, is served as a snack for passengers flying with Korean Air. Emirates’ passengers can stay awake with a cup of caffeine-heavy Arabic coffee. All photos provided by JoongAng Ilbo


Korean Air imports wine from 11 countries and tries to match it with the destination city - with Italian wine, for example, being served on flights to Rome.

More expensive vintages for passengers in first-class compartments are purchased three or four years in advance to keep down prices.

Asiana Airlines has an award-winning Swedish sommelier, Andreas Larsson, in its wine-selecting team. Also, since October 2010, the airline boards a flight attendant with a sommelier license on its international routes to Los Angeles and Frankfurt once a month. For passengers seeking Korea’s traditional alcoholic beverages, it also has makgeolli, or fermented rice wine, for its routes to Japan.

Foreign airlines have diversified their coffee selections to suit each passenger’s taste. Emirates serves Arabic coffee and Singapore Airlines has prepared coffee beans from Brazil, Kenya, Jamaica and Colombia.

Korean Air has even prepared soolbbang, or bread fermented with makgeolli, as a nostalgic snack for elderly Korean passengers, among whom it was popular several decades ago.

The airlines are also contemplating what type of crockery will match their newly developed menus.

For passengers flying first class, Korean Air has made dishware bearing the insignia of white forsythias, an indigenous plant that has been designated as a piece of natural heritage.

Singapore Airlines uses bone china designed by fashion brand Givenchy for business-class and first-class fliers, while Emirates uses Royal Doulton fine bone china.

By Lee Ga-young [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]
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