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Traditional Korean Kimchi in In-flight Meals

Traditional Korean Kimchi  in In-flight Meals
  Ssambap, Bibimbap and Other Korean Dishes Also Popular

One of the indispensable pleasures of traveling is trying new dishes. When people travel far away, they naturally have some anxiety about the local foods they will have. There is also the chance that they might encounter some of them in the airplane flying at over 10,000 meters. For travelers to and from Korea the Asiana Airline has developed some special kinds of in-flight meals after three and a half years’ research. On the menu are included bibimbap (rice mixed with various ingredients) and bulgogi ssambap (rice wrapped with grilled meat in vegetable leaves). It is the first time for this dish to be served as an in-flight meal.
A Korea AgraFood reporter conducted an interview with excutive chef of the Asiana Airline (AL), about their in-flight meals.   

In preparing in-flight meals the passenger’s health should be taken into account, and the food also gives them a taste of the cuisine of the airline’s home. We heard that your airline serves some Korean dishes as in-flight meals. Do you serve many such dishes?

At present we serve bibimbap, bulgogi ssambap, and kimchi on our flights, as well as many international dishes which are served on other flights. In the case of the traditional Korean dishes, they are popular with many Korean passengers and foreigners who have nostalgia for Korean cuisine or who just want to try it.
The bibimbap appeals to foreigners because of its nutritionally balanced ingredients and unique presentation. For the bulgogi ssambap different kinds of fresh vegetable leaves are served, so that they blend well with the grilled marinated meat and rice.  And as a side dish traditional style kimchi is also served on the flights to and from Japan. Having a good taste and packaged in an attractive container, it is gaining very positive responses among Japanese passengers. In order to help the passengers when ordering Korean dishes, a ‘How to Eat’ card is attached to the menu.
First class passengers can order a very special Korean dish: gungjung jeongchan chilcheop bansang. This is a royal set meal, which originated in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1895), and it is only served to those who order in advance. In 1997 it was awarded the top prize, the Mercury Award, by the International In-flight Food Service Association. This organization consists of catering companies throughout the world, which provide food to air lines.

 

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We guess that providing food in airplanes will be much different from serving it in restaurants. What would you describe as the main differences in serving in-flight meals?

There are many differences between them, but here I want to mention just one thing: in providing an in-flight meal the time interval between cooking and serving is much longer than is the case in restaurants. So much care should be taken to keep the in-flight foods fresh and safe. Usually the foods are cooled before being carried into the airplanes and reheated just before being served. The food preparation procedure follows the strict regulations laid down by the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). And the catering companies use only fresh and absolutely safe ingredients.

We know that on your flights kimchi and gochujang (red pepper paste) are served. As you know, they have quite strong tastes. Aren’t there any problems in serving them?

Actually we were worried about their strong tastes and kimchi’s strong smell, when we thought about serving them on our flights. But through research we were able to solve the problem of the kimchi smell. And many passengers like the genuine tastes of traditional style kimchi and gochujang. Just one problem we had once was the case of a foreign passenger who used gochujang with this food and felt his tongue burning. He kept ordering mineral water to cool his tongue down.

These days many airlines are concerned about improving their in-flight meal service. Do you have any such plans, and if so, what are they?

We are also concerned about it, and at present we have 2 projects in hand. One is to develop more kinds of health dishes which contain balanced nutrients. For these dishes we are going to use more fresh vegetables. And the other is to improve the presentation of the dishes. For this, many kinds of research are being conducted on how to make our dishes more visually attractive. We have a menu development team which includes well experienced chefs, both  for Ko- rean cuisine and western cuisine.

Mr. Lee Chang-young
Excutive Chef of Asiana Airline

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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