Thursday, March 06, 2008

Rating Air China

Hi Everyone!
I'm back from China... happy to be home. It was a great trip, and we saw a lot of beautiful, interesting things. China is a thought-provoking place. The Chinese people were so incredibly kind and sweet. Nearly everyone, of every age and income bracket , that we met was eager to return a smile. I had very little information about China in my brain before this trip, and so there were no expectations . It was all a series of interesting discoveries. I gained so much appreciation for the Chinese people and culture and arts. The heavy-hand of the government is certainly troubling though. It will be interesting to see the directions that China moves in the future. Anyhow, I know this is a food blog! As far as food, China didn't score so high on my list, but I'll have more details on that in my next post. First, let's rate Air China and their "vegan" offerings.

First off... I don't even think they had a vegan option, just "vegetarian." You can be darned sure those muffins aren't vegan, but I took a leap of faith and ate the bun. I was hungry! That sandwich was crustless white bread with tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce. Nothing else. At least there was no mayo, so it was vegan. Just low on flavor/nutrients/calories. Well, this was just a snack offering... so I kept hope alive.

Here's the next snack offering - Fritos! and apple juice! Not healthy, but vegan. And anyway, I can't deny it - I love a little Frito action every once in a while.

Here was dinner on the way there. The meal was not actually too bad, it was 3 Indian themed items and brown rice. Score on the brown rice. The curry item on the right had paneer in it, so I didn't eat that part. Then, you all know the feeling, one is left feeling vaguely disconcerted... realizing that possibly none of it is vegan. sigh! Otherwise, bread, fruit, tiny salad. Not too bad. Plus, every snack and meal came with one of these handy "Air China" moist napkins. I pocketed them all and have hoarded them for some future disaster when I need a big mess of napkin-sized handy wipes. I wonder if that moment will ever come. Of all the meals on both flights (to & from), this was the best one.

This was the second meal on the way there. Some sort of anonymous savory veggie concoction. Not too bad, but certainly not too good. A roll, whole wheat! Fruit salad, and a not-too-shabby tomato & cucumber salad. Fruit was the best part.

On the way home, the food was really bad. This picture doesn't begin to capture the inadequacy of this meal. Those noodles were swollen with being overcooked & were flavored almost solely with grease (thus left uneaten), the green beans were choked down in desperation, as were the brocolli florets - which was a challenge because they were so overcooked that they disinegrated upon fork-contact. The two small pieces of red pepper were okay though. Another dubious white roll, which I ate. Pickled vegetables in a foil pouch which didn't tempt me. The real highlight, albeit small, was the beautiful & tasty piece of dragonfruit in my fruit bowl! (it's that white speckled item in the top left) cool! Dragon fruit is mild, sweet, pleasant... a soft texture with many tiny seeds - not unlike the texture of a kiwi. But rather than the sour tang of a kiwi, the dragonfruit is mild, non-acidic, and has a calm sweetness.

By the time they brought me this last meal, I was practically starving. I had eaten my final bar, had too many handfuls of trail mix, and was *seriously* jonesing for some protein and fresh veggies. This meal, I didn't even bother with that "main dish". It was a big mess of creepy looking mushrooms, which is my most-challenging vegetable even when it's cooked right - with oily potatoes. I ate the fruit, and the roll, and the salad... and another handful of trail mix.

Those of you flying Air China, be warned! The meals & snacks don't come often, and they are pretty darned disappointing when then do come. I suggest a serious full belly upon boarding and a bag full of snacks.
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  1. When I travel, I ask for Chinese vegetarian. As the traditional Chinese diet doesn't use dairy, you're pretty sure of getting a non-animal meal. I asked for a Hindu meal once, thinking that it would not have meat (Hindus are vegetarian, aren't they?) and it was full of meat. Oh, well. I've never flown Air China, but I highly recommend Cathay Pacific for their vegetarian/vegan meals.

  2. Oh my, glad you survived such horrid food! I hope you had better choices once you landed.
    Thank you SO much for mentioning me to VegNews, I'm super flattered! I hope we can get together when I'm back!

  3. Hi yah,
    I had such a (surprisingly) difficult time in China. Luckily I was living there for a period of time and had my own kitchen to make some kick butt cucumber salad...but it was quite hard. Luckily I only flew chinese airlines when doing short domestic trips - and flew air canada for the long haul - but, that wasn't much better. I too did the bar and trail mix thing!
    Great blog.

  4. Anonymous8:01 PM

    Welcome back! I just love your blog. I recommended it to the folks at my whole foods meetup group (in St. Paul, MN) and distributed the red lentil dal recipe you recommended. I have made that dal TWICE in three days!
    Thanks for means a lot to me. Before finding my Meetup group (recently) I have had no one in my life who eats as I do. Your blog has provided a feeling of companionship and some great food inspirations. Peace.

  5. ah, the airline food pics made me sad for you.

  6. Welcome home! Your airplane meals look like some sort of awful TV dinners, though I was impressed that you got dragonfruit with one meal! You had to be starving by the time you landed!

  7. yikes, I can only imagine how AMAZING it must feel to be able to eat your OWN delicious vegan food, at home, after not having just great option on-board Air China - eek!

  8. Anonymous12:42 AM

    Vegan or non-vegan, that airline food was BAD BAD BAD! (Yes, we were on the trip too.) The trip itself was mind-expanding in many strange and wonderful ways ... but we were all glad to get home to the land of clean drinking water and safe-to-eat fruit!

  9. Yuck! I agree your meals look like a bad frozen dinner. sick!!!! I always seem to carry vegan bars, primal strips and fruit of some kind with me when I travel. I hope your food on the ground was much improved. Welcome home to your kitchen!!!

  10. Anonymous3:11 PM

    i'm sorry that the airplane food sucked so bad! i would have passed out without protein sources for that long!

  11. I love looking at airplane food, even when it's not so good! I can tell you, United was not much better. Blech.

  12. I'm not planning a trip to China but I am looking to go to Romania next year. If this is what I have to look forward to at all I'm quite scared.
    I believe a full belly is in order before take off.


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