27 April 2007

Airline Food Tasting - Jet Airways

This entry is written for youth.sg

So you want to travel to India to soak up the culture. Here's a suggestion, start off with a flight on Jet Airways for a completely Indian holiday. Especially since it has recently gone through an extreme makeover of sorts. New aircrafts, new cabins, new cabin crew uniforms, better comfort, better in-flight entertainment (Bollywood movies included) and new menu.

Information OverloadI am not trained as a traditional media writer, though I contribute my 2 cents worth in a bid to improve the quality of food in Singapore. So when Youth.sg provided an opportunity to cover an airline food tasting session, I volunteered to cover it. Of course, this being a Media Lunch, there was an overload (at least for me) of information in the form of the press kit/media junket or whatever you might call it. From what I gather at the event and according to the press releases, Jet Airways is expanding, buying new aircrafts, revamping its image, zhng-ing its cabins (i.e. making their cabins for spacious and comfortable) and whipping up new food for their passengers.

For the uninitiated, Jet Airways is an India-based airline. So to provide a unique experience, the menu they serve is authentic Indian food. Curiosity was also one other reason why I went for this. I was thinking, "How good or bad can Indian airline food get?"

Indemnity Form and My ICThe Media Lunch would be held at the SATS Inflight Catering Centre 2. For practical reasons which I am ignorant of, security clearance was required. After filling out the indemnity form to certify that I am free from germs and contagious diseases, I exchanged my IC (with very old and chubby picture) for a visitor pass and proceeded to a press briefing room.

The press briefing tableThe speaker proceeded with the briefing which informed the attendees about important numbers, strategic plans and details of changes to the airline. Basically it got the audience pretty excited about flying to India with daily flights, more comfort in all classes of seats, better in-flight entertainment and better food. With that we were ushered to the food displays for an introduction to the new menus that will be served on board the flights.

The chef starts off with the economy class food. Jet Airways is known for the Indian cuisine served on board their flights. So it didn't come as a surprise that they also put in a lot of effort to revamp the menu. From taste to aesthetics, we were pleasantly surprised to see what was offered. Ok, less talk, more pictures.

The chef explains his creations. Indian meal on the Singapore-Delhi Flight International Meal on the Singapore-Delhi Flight International meal on the Singapore-Bombay flight Indian Vegetarian breakfast on the Singapore-Chennai flight International breakfast on the Singapore-Chennai flight

Here is the menu you can expect as in Club Premier

If the economy class wasn't appealing enough, the chef carried on to present to us their Club Premier menu. Every dish is meticulously set on exquisite plates and bowls for the mile high fine dining experience. So for some of us who have never travelled on first class, this is a glimpse of what it will be like.

First up, the Club Premier breakfast on the Singapore-Chennai flight.

International Breakfast International Vegetarian Breakfast Indian Vegetarian Breakfast

And then the menu on the Singapore-Delhi flight

Available on the Singapore-Delhi flight Available on the Singapore-Delhi flights Available on the Singapore-Delhi flight Available on the Singapore-Delhi flight Available on the Singapore-Delhi flight Choice of continental or Indian breads

Finally, the menu on the Singapore-Bombay flight, which we will be tasting.

Available on the Singapore-Bombay flight Available on the Singapore-Bombay flight Available on the Singapore-Bombay flight Available on the Singapore-Bombay flight Available on the Singapore-Bombay flight Available on the Singapore-Bombay flight Available on the Singapore-Bombay flight Available on the Singapore-Bombay flight Available on the Singapore-Delhi flight

Can't wait! But the kitchen was still busy getting the food ready. So in the meantime, some near-press-quality pictures, with the help of a more experienced photographer.

The Chef with his creations The cabin crew Altogether now...

We then proceeded to the dining area. Unlike the actual cabin, we had the luxury of a dining table as well as the freedom of a buffet.

our table, with fresh watermelon juice The Rotis Fruit platter, not available on the actual Singapore-Bombay flight
Fruit Platter, not available on the actual Singapore-Bombay flight The best dessert I've ever tasted

Jet Airways is renowned for the Indian cuisine they serve on board and a revamped menu is something that the attendees were really looking forward to, especially since it had been a see-no-taste affair earlier and well, it was the only tangible thing the attendees were going to get about the Jet Airways experience on that day.

I started out with the puree of green asparagus, a smooth, creamy soup with bite-sized stalks of crunchy asparagus. The sweetness of the asparagus in the soup with the crunchiness of the stalks was a pleasant match. Despite the creamy texture, it was not too heavy.

I proceeded to the hot snacks, as stated in the menu handouts. There were 2 options, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Of course, here, I got to try them both. All the items were surprisingly spicy but not over-powering. I could fully taste the spices and at the same time taste the original taste of the main ingredients. Truly a work of art.

Next up were the main courses, again with the option of vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Very good stuff as well. I never knew mushrooms could taste so good spicy or chicken and spinach could marry so well together as a dish.

A little bit of questioning revealed that trick was to use the whole spices or coarsely ground spices instead of powdered or processed spices as the latter will effect the ingredients too quickly, resulting in an overpowering spiciness that will have you rushing for water. Whole spices and coarsely ground spices on the other hand, work more slowly, retaining the taste of the ingredients for longer, perfect for the in-flights meals.

The international fare received many compliments as well, the non-vegetarian set was a like a fusion of Chinese and Western food and the vegetarian was oriental-styled noodles and stir-fried mushrooms and vegetables. Both equally pleasant on the palate.

I was also curious about the how altitude might alter the taste of food. As it turns out, altitude either dulls or intensifies its taste, which is the another reason for the choice of spices used in the preparation.

It is apparent that Jet Airways is selling an experience of a New India. Curiosity thus got the better of me when I had to ask, "Do you show Bollywood movies since Jet Airways seems to be all about a unique Indian experience?"

It got one of the spokesperson rather excited as she shared that it was exactly what Jet Airways had intended and some frequent flyers would even consult the entertainment guide before determining when they would fly so that they can get to watch the shows they never had time to go for on the ground!

Finally, dessert! A slice of banana cheese cake topped with a halved strawberry, complimented with mixed berry compote and coconut sauce. The taste of banana uplifted the usually heavy nature of cheesecake. When paired with the compote and coconut sauce, the only possible descriptions were heavenly and divine. It was definitely the best dessert I have had ever. And like a typical Singaporean, I wished I had asked for takeaways.

Speaking of desserts, some attendees noticed the omission of Indian sweets, especially since the meal had demonstrated the quality Indian food served on board. The spokesperson replied that it was being considered. The topic of sugar also led to a short discussion on their special meals, diabetic meals, vegetarian meals and even religious meals which cater to passengers who travel for pilgrimages. Best of all, all dishes, including the perennial ones are low in fat, salt and sugar. Plus, you can have the meal on demand, eat some for now, save the rest for later. So gorging is not required.

As with most meals, the dessert marked the end of a unique meal and the Jet Airways experience. Now all that's left is the actual flight to India. Any takers?

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