Cathay Pacific's contribution to the airline industry's rethink of in-flight meals has a distinctly Hong Kong flavour, with the company adding new Chinese dishes to its menus.
From later this month until October, premium economy and business-class passengers on long-haul flights to and from Hong Kong will be treated to six new dishes, such as slow-cooked pork belly with Hakka mustard greens and wok-fried chicken. Economy choices will include braised fish with ginger and braised beef with tendon.
Meals will be presented in traditional Chinese serving dishes.
"Cathay Pacific is a Hong Kong airline and it's only right if we serve Chinese food," said Brendan Duffy, the airline's catering manager.
Duffy said in-flight catering was challenging due to limitations on transporting and storing the food, as well as preparing meals in a jet galley.
For example, most airliners do not have freezers, and the dry ice used to chill ice cream can make it too frozen to eat.
But the airline's chefs have sought to improve the experience by tinkering with new menu items.
For instance, the cabin's air pressure numbs passengers' taste buds, so chefs add more seasoning to accentuate the food's flavour.
The same concern applies to wine. The airline's wine tasters tend to favour stronger-flavoured wines for first-class passengers.
Dogged for decades about the quality of meals, airlines have stepped up efforts to improve their offerings, with British Airways, Air France and Singapore Airlines, to name a few, turning to celebrity chefs for advice.
While cost and supply remains a big concern when drawing up economy-class menus, Cathay says its chefs will travel far to find the best food, importing abalone from Australia and beef from the United States for its first-class menus.