Nami Iijima's Soul Food Onboard Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines (JAL), as part of JAL Kitchen Gallery, has been working with renowned Japanese food stylist Nami Iijima in creating home cooking-inspired meals for its international flights in Economy Class and Premium Economy Class.
Nami Iijima is a renowned food stylist who has styled delicious-looking food for advertisements, television productions, and movies. She is also an author for several cookbooks, and her specialty lies in traditional Japanese home cooked cuisine.
Nami Iijima's expertise in traditional Japanese home cooking gels very well with Japan Airlines' service promise of "heartfelt Japanese hospitality", offering soul food onboard that is memorable and close to the heart.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to try one of Nami Iijima's delicious creations onboard my flight JL37 from Tokyo (Haneda) to Singapore.
The menu is as follows:
[The menu is created by Food Stylist Nami Iijima.]
Simmered Chicken & Potato with Mushroom & Olive Pasta**
Salty Japanese Pot-au-Feu "Oden" with Seasoned Rice
Lotus Root Marinated in Vinegar Sauce
Dried Radish Salad
Original Fruit Punch
Green Bean & Baby Corn Salad with Grapefruit Dressing
Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream
**with Bread & Butter
The polite and lovely flight attendant showed a menu card to each passenger with pictures of the two main course options to choose from. Feeling the mood for some authentic Japanese cuisine onboard Japan's national airline, I opted for the Salty Japanese Pot-au-Feu "Oden" with Seasoned Rice.
I was quite amazed by the huge size of the meal tray, and how nicely presented the food are on it! In typical Japanese orderliness, every thing fitted nicely on the meal tray (unlike some airlines which messily dump anything and everything on the meal trays in Cattle Class). The variety of colours the food presented also piques my tastebuds.
I was not disappointed when I took my first bite into the piping hot main course. The seasoned rice was nicely moist and well-seasoned. The assorted traditional Japanese oden (typically served from food carts and Japanese convenience stores in Japan) definitely qualifies as good old comfort food. The taste of the oden, simmered in a rich broth, is delicate yet flavourful.
The side dishes each oozed its own unique burst of flavour; from the sourish-saltiness of the vinegar-flavoured lotus root, to the tangy crunch of the dried radish salad, to the sweet syrupy fruit punch. Together, they offered a sensational experience for the tastebuds. Of the entire tray, I could only find fault with the salad bowl, which featured a pair of dull-looking carrots lying lifelessly on top of otherwise crisp bed of fresh leaves. A generous dose of the salad dressing did perked up the salad's appeal though.
The meal in its entirety was truly satisfying. Everything was so simple, yet each dish presented its own unique taste and texture, and when combined, created a sensory journey for the palate. What I enjoyed in this meal was its light flavours, quite a contrary to the sodium-laden chow we have grown accustomed to in airline food. It felt healthier and I already started to feel less guilty about my travelling diet. In fact, the light flavours of the dishes contribute very well to the concept of home cooking (kudos to Nami Iijima for her excellent creations!), and it brought a warm, feel-good feeling to me.
In fact, I was feeling so good about my meal that I didn't have any reservations devouring the Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream offered later by the cheerful flight attendant. As a child, Mom always rewards me with an ice cream if I finish my food. And with Nami Iijima's soul food on my Japan Airlines flight, I sure did. The ice cream was a nice, pampering treat, so was the entire meal.
For the complete experience of my Japan Airlines flight JL37, please see the video below: