Air India’s gastronomical upgrade takes off with menu makeover


Soggy cucumber sandwiches stuffed in moist paper bags is typically how most of us remember flight meals. Priced exorbitantly and probably the ‘only’ option, one feels fleeced while washing down the tasteless stuff with a bland cup of watery tea’.
But things have rustled up drastically in the air space with Air India introducing its brand new menu in April this year.As travellers now browse through the Air India menu while booking domestic flights, the options are astounding. The gourmet and inclusive in-flight menu seems to have almost everything under the sun. From Bland Meals for sensitive palates to Diabetic Meals for sugar patients and from Gluten Intolerant Meals, Fruit Platter Meal, Hindu Meal, to even unconventional choices like a Kosher and Lacto Ovo Meal-the menu is a complete surprise.
Who prepares the food
Ambassador’s Sky Chef-the 81 year old pioneers in the field of in-flight catering in India are the key catering partners of Air India. Ambassador’s Sky Chef had its humble beginnings in the Ambassador Hotel, Mumbai in 1942. The food is prepared in its state-of-the-art facility in Aerocity, New Delhi where a team of chefs, under the guidance of Abhijeet Berde, Executive Chef, Air India create this culinary experience.


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How the meals are prepared
Inside the flight kitchen, the food journey begins at the docks where they get deliveries. After a thorough examination of the quality and freshness of the raw ingredients like veggies and meats, they are sorted into baskets of different colours. These baskets go into coolers to keep everything fresh. Next is the Process Wing, where the prepping of the food happens. Veggies and fruits get chopped and weighed, and their calories are noted down. Meats like fish, chicken, and lamb get handled separately.

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In the main kitchen, everything’s neatly divided into sections like Hot Kitchen, Cold Kitchen, Bakery, and Confectionery. Each section prepares different dishes based on the type of cuisine. Hot cooked food gets cooled super quick in blast chillers and then moved to cold rooms that are kept below 4 degrees Celsius. Then comes the Operations wing, which gets busy dividing and arranging the food in trays, setting them up with cutlery and crockery, as per Air India’s guidelines for different flights. The meal trays, all set and ready, get loaded onto carts and sent off to our aircraft after thorough checks by Air India’s Catering and Security teams.

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Quality checks
But wait, there’s more to this process! There are these 12 super important checkpoints, called Critical Control Points, that the whole food journey has to pass through. These checkpoints are like guardians overseeing the entire kitchen process, making sure everything’s safe and sound. It’s all part of this thing called Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) process, keeping a watchful eye over the entire kitchen journey. A team of microbiologists keeps a close eye on every step of the meal process in the flight kitchen. Their job is to check and monitor for any slip-ups or issues to make sure that what’s served to the guests is of the highest quality and meets top hygiene standards.

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What’s on the menu
The domestic flight menu includes-smoothies for breakfast soups, salads, curated meals (including a healthy or light choice), sandwiches and desserts. The menus are primarily Indian, but they also offer Asian and Continental dishes. Accompanying the meals are a curated selection of cold press juices, sparkling water, aerated beverages, and a selection of teas. The menu cycles change every other day to avoid monotony for regular or frequently returning guests. Croissants, Sugar-free Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Muffins, Cheese and Truffle Oil Scrambled Eggs with Chives, Cheese Mushroom Omelette, Mustard Cream-coated Chicken Sausage, Dry Jeera Aloo Wedges, etc. or dishes such as Aloo Paratha, Medu Vada and Podi Idli for breakfast. Lunch and High Tea options include Fish Curry, Chicken Chettinad, Potato Podimas, Chicken 65, Vegetable Pulao, Grilled Sliced Pesto Chicken Sandwich, Mumbai Batata Vada, Vegetable Fried Noodles, Chilli Chicken etc.
Also Read:Foods that are allowed and not allowed on flights

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The new menu in the international flight includes fusion dishes and classics such as Mushroom Scrambled Egg, Turmeric Chilli Omelette, Mixed Vegetable Paratha, Achari Paneer and Emmental Sandwich in Multigrain Bread, Grilled Prawns in a Fennel Cream Sauce, Murgh Rezala Kofta, Murgh Elaichi Korma, Classic Chilli Chicken, Chicken Chettinad Kathi Roll, Baked Fillet of Fish with a Herb Almond and Garlic Crust, Masala Dal and Brown Rice Khichdi with Sprouts, Roast Tomato and Bocconcini Caprese with Kalamata Olives and Pesto, and Classic Tomato and Coriander Shorba with Crisp Namakpara, among others.

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Thumb and Embed Images Courtesy: istock and Dinodia

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