CABIN CREW EAT & DINE
Restaurants, dishes, recipes, world treats, desserts, and foodie experiences
Last September 4, we at Flyhigh Manila and other food bloggers were invited by Philippine Airlines to be part of a food tasting event at the PAL Inflight Center. We were to experience a few dishes concocted by Chef Fernando Aracama which are served on board business class PAL flights, particularly long haul flights. Philippine Airlines has always been very close to our hearts and definitely, this was an invitation we definitely cannot resist.
We have been attending a few activities of Philippine Airlines like cabin crew graduationsand wet-runs wherein a business class simulation is held as part of their cabin crew training. Despite these and the fact that we regularly fly Philippine Airlines, this is our very first time to attend an activity of such type, especially that we have always loved the inflight meals of the airline.
Before dining, we were first given a tour at Skykitchen, the company that handles the inflight meals of Philippine Airlines. Cleanliness is top priority so we had to suit up with a robe, a hairnet, and facemask. We even had to wash our hands as this is a requirement before entering the work area.
Everything is in order. From the place where the ingredients are prepared to where they are grouped according to flights, class, and type of meal like dinner, midflight, etc., everything is just in order, all under a climate control environment that cannot go beyond 5 degrees celsius. After preparation, they are then brought to a single cooking area, then they are grouped and packed depending on the flight, then are stored in a freezer before loading. PAL also has a separate Halal kitchen where the food are prepared the Halal way. They also have a separate Japanese kitchen.
Many would be wondering how PAL can keep their food fresh all the time despite the time it takes from them to be cooked, loaded, and the number of flights all together. It's because of a very systematic set-up where cleanliness is a huge priority. Buong pusong alaga when it comes to food preparation!
The most exciting part, eating!
Chef Fernando Aracama is known for his Filipino fusion dishes, many which are inspired by his home recipes. So it's safe to say "Filipino home cooking from the heart of the Filipino" when describing these dishes we were about to taste.
Each dish was served by PAL flight attendants according to the sequence they are served in business class. Flight attendants Trixie Muli, Rachel Quang, Kimi Siao, and the face of PAL Muriel Orais all took turns serving us while giving a brief background of each dish. It was like being part of a wet-run, except, we were on a table.
First to be served is called "Laswa Soup". Funny name, right? But definitely not funny tasting! Laswa Soup is actually shrimp and vegetable consomme with squash blossoms. According to Ched Aracama, "To a true-blue Visayan, this soup encapulates the fresh flabors of garden-grown vegetables, simmered just right to release the juices but retain crisp bite of the vegetables". He also adds "The carefully-stuffed shrimp mousseline in the squash flower gives that contrasting texture to the light healthy broth."
Right after that first "higop", we loved it right away! It's got that Filipino home-cooked taste which is simply perfect for a meal in your provincial home while enjoying the cool and clean breath of the environment! It's not your typical vegetable soup, it's got the right punch and bite! Honestly, we would love to have this soup on our rice too! Extra soup please!
Next to be served was Enseladang Pako, a fiddlehead fern and garden salad! Chef Aracama describes it as "the unfurled fronds of the fern are used to add a unique contrasting flavor to usual salad vegetables like lettuces, red radish, tomatoes, and pickled red onion. The piquant nuances made by the salted egg white and crispy fried shallots allow the smooth entry of the smoked duck slices to the mouth that is further enhanced by the rustic creaminess of coconut and native lime dressing."
The presentation was already appetizing! We just love how that salted egg added a punch to this. Not too heavy, just enough to sooth your palate for the main course. We actually love enselada, but this is one of a kind. Very Filipino, but would definitely be loved by foreigners!
So for the main course, we had to choose and I chose the Adobong Pula. Others where Ginataang Sugpo, and Beef Shortribe in Barbeque Tamarind Sauce.
Adobo is basically the world's most famous Filipino dish. When we think Filipino food, the first that comes in mind is adobo! When our foreign or balikbayan friends would come to the Philippines, we normally feed them adobo. Chef Aracama wanted to give the popular pork adobo a twist, so he come up with this stewed pork in red Adobo sauce. For this one, Chef Aracama says "A variation of the classic vinegar soy mix, this dish uses annato oil to give the dish a slightly redish hue. That familiar adobo taste is completed by the smoky flavor of grilled eggplant wrap and the rustic flavors of the heirloom rice that accompanies this dish."
Not your traditional Adobo indeed, and no need for extra rice here. The kind of rice itself is already very filling and the meat itself is very soft. It retains that traditional Adobo flavor but made tastier by the kind of sauce used. This one reminds us also of the famous Adobong Batangas which also uses achuete or annato oil. If plain rice was served with this, extra sauce is a must to put on your rice.
The other dishes were Ginataang Sugpo which are basically coco cream prawns in fresh turmeric sauce and Beef Shortribs in Barbeque Tamarind Sauce.
That Ginataang Sugpo is definitely sinful as we were told that the rice is aligue fried rice! As Chef Aracama said, "this dish is nothing short of sinful".
The dessert was this cake which we totally forgot the name, our apologies for that. We just took one bite and this seems like its a kind of cheesecake with just the right amount of sweetness and richness. Definitely a balance between both.
So if this cake was delicious, why didn't we devour it? Well, one name - CARMEN'S BEST ICE CREAM! We even didn't bother to touch the cheese platter that came after the cake! So yes you heard that right, every business class passenger gets free Carmen's Best Ice Cream as dessert! Isn't that lovely?
As Philippine Airlines moves towards its goal to be a 5-star airline by 2020, they have started to undertake new changes and improvements in its overall product. First was the reconfiguration of its Airbus A330 interiors, now fully equipped with tri-class seating, individual seat-back inflight entertainment system, and internet access. Flight attendant training has been enriched too. They are also replacing the old Airbus A340s with brand new Airbus A350-900s starting 2018!
Inflight services plays a huge role in getting that star, and one of the ingredients needed is inflight meals. What we tried is definitely at par with those we have tried at fine-dining restaurants. They say, Filipino food is not really meant for fine dining but with Chef Fernando Aracama in the helm of PAL's inflight meals, they were able to deliver Filipino fine dining meals to the highest level. Now we are talking 5-star here! Hey, no dinner that night, we were very full too!
Asia's oldest airline is on its way to be Asia's best airline. The road uphill may not be easy but if PAL simply follows its present plans, they would be up there in due time. As they say, rough roads leads to the best view.
We have always been proud of Philippine Airlines as they represent our country and our flag. It does not say "Philippine Airlines" on its fueselage, instead, it says "Philippines" because as Dr. Lucio Tan says "Philippine Airlines is the Philippines". With that gastronomic experience we had, we can say that PAL is more Filipino than ever at its best. From the cabin crew to the inflight meals and now even to the new aircraft interiors, Philippine Airlines is representing the Filipino hospitality well, that buong pusong alaga like how Filipinos takes care of our visitors and friends.
As what the PAL panata says:
"Saan man pumunta, higit pa sa sinag ng araw at ilaw ng mga tala, kislap ng buong pusong alaga".
Congratulations Philippine Airlines, you are definitely on the way to the top. And yes, thank you for making us full, we missed dinner!