Gone are the days when airline food is equivalent to tasteless and unappetizing dishes. These days, every airline company is outdoing each other in making an impressive menu for its passengers, from the luxury airlines to low-cost ones like Malaysian airline, AirAsia. The latest addition to its in-flight menu is the INSPI(RED) Burger.
In an effort to improve the dining experience of their passengers, AirAsia partnered with one of the most popular Thai chefs in the United States, Chef Hong Thaimee. Chef Hong’s role in the partnership was to create a dish that would resonate with the airline’s diverse guests.
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“We’re a regional carrier, so we want to give our customers a flavor of the Asian experience,” Gilbert Simpao, chief commercial officer for AirAsia Philippines, tells ANCX, during the launch of INSPI(RED) Burger, at the Amorita Resorts in Panglao, Bohol. “AirAsia contacted Chef Hong because she’s a very famous and successful chef. We gave her leeway, so she could use her background, experience, and passion to create something wonderful.”
The result is a juicy, tangy, homemade burger, with a chicken patty steeped in fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass. The patty is flanked by two beetroot-flavored, red brioche buns. The shredded purple cabbage and seedless tomatoes add flavor to the burger. Its best ingredient, though, is the Nam Prink Noom Mayo, a green chili mayonnaise, which Chef Hong borrowed from her grandmother.
Born in Chaingmai, Thailand, Chef Hong moved to New York City 12 years ago to jumpstart her career as a chef, after gaining success as a model and business executive in Bangkok City, Thailand. In The Big Apple, she gained work experience by taking jobs at several restaurants, before she decided to open her own place, called Ngam, which served modern Thai food. Through traveling the world and being exposed to different people, Chef Hong became a humanitarian activist, inspirational speaker, and author.
When she sealed her partnership with AirAsia, she asked the almost-two-decade-old airline if they wanted to support her advocacy of supporting people with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). She also wanted to raise awareness of the disease. The airline company happily agreed.
Coincidentally, in 2018, AirAsia already started a partnership with RED, a licensed brand that collaborates with the private sectors to support and fund initiatives that are related to HIV and AIDS awareness and eradication.
Simpao says, “Everything kind of goes full-circle. The organization RED is a partner. AirAsia’s color is red. And our new burger by our partner chef is red. We do hope this makes an impact and a significant contribution to our fight against HIV and AIDS.”
For this initiative, 10% of the sales from each INSPI(RED) burger will go directly to the HIV/AIDS programs in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
One of AirAsia’s goals is to bring Filipino cuisine to a wider audience. For their new menu, they’ve put a twist to the classic adobo by serving it with java rice and bananas on the side.
The best-sellers include the famous beef tapa with scrambled eggs, chicken teriyaki, nasi lemak, and chicken rice. Recently, they launched the Manila-Osaka flight and coming up with more Japanese dishes is part of the agenda.
“We don’t want to settle,” Simpao says when asked what’s behind the menu upgrade. “Airlines is a very tough business. Any edge we can have over our competition—or course, low fares are important—but a great in-flight experience can also give us the edge. One part of the experience is having good meals onboard. The meals are not bundled into the price of the fare. If we want the passengers to pay extra, we have to make sure that we give them food that is worth their hard-earned money.”