Garuda Indonesia inflight cuisine

Rachel AJ Lee is transported to the Indonesia archipelago with every delicious spoonful of local food she had at the meal presentation

Garuda Indonesia recently created new menus – based on the unique and diverse Indonesian traditional dishes found across the country – for all three of its travel classes. This is part of the airline’s ongoing improvements and expansion plans. This new menu was presented at dnata Singapore, Garuda’s inflight catering partner in Singapore.

In 2014, Garuda Indonesia was awarded the 5-Star Airline award by Skytrax, and is only one of seven five-star airlines in the world.

Vindex V. Tengker, vice president inflight services, Garuda Indonesia, told TTG Asia that his goal was “to maintain the five stars, and ensure both food and service are up to that level”.

As travellers are becoming more well-travelled, their expectations for airline food has also increased. Vindex feels that travellers equate their airline experience to a “hotel in the sky”, and a way to provide a wholesome experience is by serving restaurant-quality food.

Aside from the food, flight attendants are also trained to be waiters and waitresses 38,000 feet above ground.

Vindex said: “We have restaurant professionals who come in to teach our flight attendants how to present the food, introduce the items and its origins, and make wine recommendations.”

Gado gado

As I walked into the tasting room, I was offered a glass of mung bean juice. This green drink – made from blending cooked mung beans with condensed milk and a bit of fresh milk – was creamy and sweet; the thickness of it reminded me of an avocado smoothie. This drink is only served in first class, and I was told it is a favourite of both current president Joko Widodo, and his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

While three different meals were created by the airline for first, business and economy, the meal I had was the Indonesian option provided to business class. The airline also serves a Western alternative onboard.

We started off with two appetisers: gado gado, a mixed vegetable roll served with peanut sauce; and rujak buah, a mixed fruit salad. The roll was cold on the inside, and had to be eaten along with a large dollop of peanut sauce as it was rather bland. The mixed fruit salad, however, was an interesting mix of sweet, sour and spicy.

There were three main courses that I sampled, accompanied with a scoop of fragrant nasi kuning (turmeric rice). There was the rendang daging sapi, an aromatic dry beef curry; theayam bakar bumbu rica rica, tender pieces of roasted marinated chicken in rica rica sauce; andikan kappa saus woku, pan-fried snapper in woku sauce.

Ikan kappa saus woku

Overall, all three dishes were piquant and delicious. What stood out for me was the generous slab of boneless snapper in the woku sauce (a seasoning sauce found in North Sulawesi) – the white meat was flaky, and absorbed the savoury sauce well.

The dessert of the day was three different flavours of mousse cakes – chocolate, blueberry and mango. I tried all three but felt that the chocolate was the best.

It is also worth noting that Garuda Indonesia has two chefs – one each for first and business class – onboard their international longhaul flights. These chefs check that the food is heated to the correct temperature, ensure the taste is consistent, before they plate and present the dish to the passenger.

When asked about economy class meals, Vindex stressed that the menus have also been changed, and these passengers were not forgotten as the economy class accounts for 70 per cent of Garuda’s domestic business.

He elaborated: “There are also a lot of people travelling shorthaul in economy who are there due to company regulations, so we have to ensure that we take care of them too, (as they have the ability to move up in classes).”

The dishes evoked a happy gastronomic memory of when I first had a taste of Indonesian cuisine during a visit to the country years ago. The restaurant-quality food also makes me wish that I could afford to fly business class instead.

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