Gourmet Airline Food

There are some who argues that 'gourmet' and airline food are two words that can't be combined, unless you were privy to the 'pointy end' of a plane on a regular basis. There was a time when fine dining on aircraft was available to all, Air Ships and Flying Boats come to mind.

Over the years there have been some trend breakers and Lauda Air must be given some credit here. They consistently won 'best airline food awards in both economy and business class. Their 'grilled to order' steak sandwiches took one back to the fly boat era where most food was cooked to order!

These meal examples were available at the time of publication and could be removed, or changed by airlines at any time. However theya re good indicators that the siad airline really do think about their food and hopefully replacements will be of a similar standard.

Sick of eating cardboard pasta and “so-you-think-this-is-chicken” on flights?  The next time you fly, consider booking a seat on one of these airlines that dish out delectable treats, even for those down the back of the plane.

Although you’re most likely to get a decent feed when travelling on an international route as a growing number of quality airlines realising they can’t serve rubbish anymore and that an in-flight meal doesn’t have to feel like punishment in your mouth.

Some carriers have taken the step to even hire well-known chefs like Neil Perry and David Bouley to create signature menus (mostly for passengers in the money-making-seats). Singapore Airlines took it one step further for premiere passengers who can enrol 24 hours before their flight in the Book the Cook program to specially order meals designed by notable chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Georges Blanc.

Airlines are also improving their in-flight meal prep stations. Cathay Pacific Airlines is the first airline to have galleys stocked with skillets, toasters, and rice cookers, allowing for freshly cooked eggs, crisp toast, and steamed rice to be served on board. Things are looking up in terms of mile-high dining—we can only hope all airlines will one day follow suit.

It is pleasing to see two 'Low Cost Carriers' (wash my mouth out with soap) enter the list. Other similar level airlines have a long way to go with the 'catch up'. Hopefully these included low cost airlines are paying as much attention to the level of qualification of their 2nd officer pilots - that's another story!

This article has been adapted and originally featured in First we Feast.

Airline: EVA Air
Game-changing meal: A Hello Kitty-themed airplane exists, and yes, everything about it is Hello Kitty-themed—from the food to the toilet paper to the pillows. Depending on your flight route, you could be feasting on a traditional Japanese breakfast garnished with Hello Kitty-shaped carrots and colorful kamaboko fish cakes (pictured above); a piece of sirloin steak topped with Hello Kitty-shaped foie gras pate; or a salmon fillet with Hello Kitty’s face branded onto the top (which comes with a side of fruits in the shape of, you guessed it, Hello Kitty). We’d love to see some grown-ass adults eating these Sanrio-themed meals.
Airline: Cathay Pacific
Game-changing meal: Wonton noodles are the lifeblood of restaurants in Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific pays homage to its mother city’s dietary mainstay by offering wonton noodles as an item on the snack menu. All Cathay flights also come stocked with instant cup noodles that are served on-demand (take that, pretzels). If you don’t feel like slurping noodles, you can also flag down a flight attendant and request a sandwich, cookies, apples, char siu pork buns, or Haagen Dazs ice cream. The best part? No one can stop you from asking for more.
Airline: Japan Airlines
Game-changing meal: JAL has never-ending hits. For this one, it beefs things up with yet another collaboration, this time with Yoshinoya, Japan’s largest chain of gyudon (beef bowl) restaurants. The packaging of the “Air Yoshinoya” meal is specially designed so that the mildly-sweet simmered beef and steaming rice are separated until customers are ready to eat. Unlike most airlines, JAL is mindful of the fact that humidity levels in cabins are lower than usual, and so it serves the beef with extra sauce.
Airline: Asiana Airlines
Game-changing meal: This Korean airline offers flyers large bowls of bibimbap, a favourite national dish which consists of veggies and meat atop rice, accompanied by soba noodles and traditional pollack soup. The meal comes with an instructional pamphlet that guides travelers through the steps required to create the “greatest harmony” of flavours by mixing the rice with gochujang, a traditional Korean-style sweet and hot pepper paste.
Airline: Emirates Airlines
Game-changing meal: Emirates Airlines gives its flyers a full introduction to Arabic cuisine, and by full, we mean a lavish sampler plate of traditional mezze that includes labneh yogurt with sumac powder, shanklish cheese salad, rice-stuffed vine leaves, cheese sambousik pastries, haloumi cheese, baba ghanoush, and hummus. Oh, and warm pita bread for dipping.
Airline: Jet Airways
Game-changing meal: If you’re planning a trip to the southern regions of India, you better not expect to feast on chicken tikka masala. Instead, get familiar with idli and upma, and be prepared to go vegetarian for a few days. To do this, you can hop aboard a Jet Airways flight, which preps travelers by serving a complete South Indian vegetarian feast of upma—a thick porridge made out of dry roasted semolina—served with idli (steamed rice cakes), dosa (lentil pancakes), and sambar (spicy lentil soup).
Airline: Lufthansa
Game-changing meal: Lufthansa’s First Class is equipped with a caviar cart that rolls through the cabin when appetisers are served. Opt for a medallion of lobster on artichoke salad or high-quality Parma ham with cantaloupe for your starter, then enjoy as much caviar as you’d like—apparently, the flight attendants are generous with the portions. Carsten Spohr, the man in charge of the airline, told the Globe and Mail that “five percent of the global caviar production goes to Lufthansa first class,” making it the biggest caviar customer in the world.
Airline: Singapore Airlines
Game-changing meal: Lobster Thermidor is an entree last seen emerging from the kitchens of five-star restaurants in the ’50s, but now it can be found in the Business and First Class cabins of Singapore Airlines. The upscale meal is part of the airline’s Book the Cook program that invites passengers to order their meals more than 24 hours before departure. In addition to the Thermidor, flyers can choose luxe dishes like chicken breast stuffed with avocado and foie gras, grilled scallops with squid ink gnocchi, or soy-glazed pan-fried salmon. The in-flight menu describes the Thermidor as “lobster tail sauteed in butter, flambéed in brandy, sprinkled with cheese, and served with creamy mushroom sauce, garlic and spicy mustard, and buttered asparagus.” What an awesome throwback.
Airline: EVA Air
Game-changing meal: Din Tai Fung, a Michelin starred Taiwanese restaurant with branches all over the world, offers its award-winning dumplings aboard EVA Air flights, allowing flyers to nibble on the chain’s highly-coveted offerings without having to wait in line at their bustling dumpling houses. The special in-flight Din Tai Fung menu includes braised beef noodles, the restaurant’s famous xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), and shrimp and pork wontons drizzled in spicy chili sauce—all of which come with a side of the restaurant’s popular oven-baked pastries filled with taro paste.
Airline: Lufthansa
Game-changing meal: Lufthansa offers the traditional Italian dish vitello tonnato on select flights. The dish combines chilled slices of veal with a thick, mayonnaise-like tuna sauce, Pommery mustard, a hard-boiled egg, and capers. And if that isn’t enough to get your appetite going, the meal comes with a side of smoked salmon tartar and salmon gravlax.
Airline: Air Asia
Game-changing meal: Budget airline Air Asia charges RM10 ($3.12 USD) for it’s popular Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak meal, and people are more than happy to pay for it. Who is Pak Nasser? No one seems to know, but flyers go crazy for the local Malaysian favourite of fragrant coconut rice with chili sambal paste, fried anchovies, crunchy peanuts, and a hard-boiled egg. The in-flight meal is so popular that Air Asia encourages flyers to pre-order the meal online for a cheaper price.
Hiltl’s Vegetarian Stir-Fries
Airline: Swiss Air

Game-changing meal: Swiss Air has teamed up with Hiltl, a vegetarian restaurant in Zurich, to create a vegetarian menu that features tofu and vegetables sauteed in a lime and turmeric sauce, served over basmati rice. According to Hiltl’s website, the restaurant holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest continuously-open vegetarian restaurant in the world, and Swiss Air made the decision to partner with them in order to “unite two strong Swiss brands with a reputation for quality, innovation, and Swiss hospitality.”