In-flight food is rarely great on any airline, at least not in Economy class. A little imagination therefore goes a long way in cheering up the traveling taste buds, and accolades to Kenya Airways for adding a real local touch to its airborne meals. It’s the only African airline I have flown with that has a real ambitious cuisine, and I have enjoyed several meals with distinct regional ingredients on intra-continental flights.
Most recently it was a delicious chicken roulade, with a spicy tomato paste folded into the chicken that tasted a little like Ethiopian berbere, but not quite so hot. It was served with sauteed vegetables and slices or little cakes of pap. For those of you not from South Africa, pap is a kind of hard maize porridge that is staple food across the southern, central and eastern part of the continent.
In Kenya it is called ugali, and I have been served similar slices of ugali on a previous flight as well, that time wtih roast beef and kale, a spinach-like leaf vegetable that is normally cooked in a really tasty, sometimes slightly bitter, stew. The first meal was on a flight from Nairobi to Kinshasa, and the second on a flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi, if I remember correctly.
According to Kenya Airway’s in-flight magazine, Msafiri, the airline makes a special effort to prepare local cuisine for its regional flights, while meals on inter-continental flights are adapted to European or Indian tongues:
”The menus are largely influenced by passenger profile. For example, Indian routes are mainly vegetarian, meals on flights to West African destinations include local cuisines like jollof rice, plantain and fish dishes, while European routes feature more pasta,” wrote reporter Jackson Biko in a recent feature, adding:
”If you fly one of the West African routes you will notice that the grammage of food is higher because passengers on that route are more likely to request additional helpings. In the spirit of going that extra mile to accommodate passengers Kenya Airways also imports a special chilli from Nigeria that it knows is popular with Nigerians.”
It seems that whatever the route, chicken is by far the most common choice of travelers, with the airline using 11 tonnes of chicken per month for in-flight meals, compared with 8 tonnes of beef, 4 tonnes of lamb, 4 tonnes of fish, and 2 tonnes of Kenyan beans. Well, I would very happily have the spicy chicken roulade again – in air or on the ground.