My American Airlines Asian Vegetarian Meal

Filed Under: American, Travel

American Airlines’ catering is pretty lousy, so I figured I’d start ordering special meals, as I can’t imagine they’re worse than what American usually serves. American recently even rolled out the option of ordering special meals in first class on domestic flights.

With that in mind, I decided to order a special meal on my American Airlines business class flight yesterday from New York to Los Angeles. I’d note that American already offered special meals on this route before, since it’s a premium route. Furthermore, this is a more impressive meal than you’d usually get on domestic flights.

I decided to order an Asian vegetarian meal. This is almost always a spicy Indian dish, which frankly I think it’s sort of tough to go wrong with it. How was my Asian vegetarian meal? Actually quite good.

On the first tray I was served the salad, appetizer, and dessert. The salad had asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and carrots. The appetizer had cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, asparagus, and peppers, with some vinaigrette.

The main course was served separately, and was quite good. It was surprisingly spicy for being catered in the US. I’m not sure what everything was, though I believe it was rice, spinach, and okra, though I could be mistaken.

The dessert was the highlight, as it was gulab jamun (spongy milky balls in a rose syrup).

While special meals are technically served with separate bread and dessert, I was still offered bread from the breadbasket, and was still offered the regular ice cream sundae dessert (though I passed).

Is this the greatest meal I’ve ever had on a plane? Absolutely not. But it was reasonably good, and it was a nice change of pace from what they usually serve. It was most definitely better than the “lobster roll” I was served on the same route last year.

I’ll be ordering a special meal again on my upcoming American flight from London, where none of the options sound appealing to me.

I’m also curious to see what a special meal is like on a non-premium domestic flight.

If you’ve ordered a special meal on American, what was your experience like?

  1. The issue I have with special meals (not sure if this is the case with US airlines) is that while the main course is specific to what you have ordered, so is the appetizer, dessert and sometimes even the bread. So even if the normal appetizer and dessert is suitable for vegetarians (AVML), they still give you some lousy cut veggies for an appetizer and fruit for dessert. And on many airlines, even in business class, they are unwilling to give you the appetizer / dessert that everyone else gets. On Air France business class, I’ve also been given the horrid bread packaged in plastic, and was not even offered their bread basket.

    So now if I know an airline consistently has a vegetarian main course on their flights, I avoid ordering a special meal.

  2. Lucky, do you find that Indian food generally carries better on flights? I think you should try the Indian catering on your flight out of LHR – am sure it will be pretty good.

  3. Did you request “vegetarian” or “Hindu vegetarian” for your flight? Because if the former, then that’s quite an Indian spread for a transcontinental flight in the UAA. Everything up there main course wise is Indian. You have the samosa, which is the pastry, various bhajis (the okra and spinach) and the gulab jamun which I have never seen in a premium cabin flight in North America.

  4. never mind^^^^ I missed the part where you said “Asian Vegetarian” which will most always be Indian vegetarian food regardless of the airline.

  5. Looks perfectly good. One eats with ones eyes.

    In general airlines should proactively offer one veg and a meat option. They invariably only offer 2 meat And you have to request a veg option

    In many cases you could use quorn or a meat substitute and many would not even know the difference if it was cooked well and with a nice sauce

  6. “I missed the part where you said “Asian Vegetarian” which will most always be Indian vegetarian food regardless of the airline.”

    Too bad, there are tons of good Asian vegetarian dishes besides Indian.

  7. I only ordered an AA special meal once (PHL-MAD in coach) because to be honest I didn’t realize I could prior to that. I requested a non-lactose meal and ended up with a side salad, packaged roll, and steamed rice for dinner. Not exactly what I was hoping for and thank goodness I always travel with my own snacks. Compare that to my United flight on the way home which was an Indian dish that would give any Trader Joe’s frozen meal a run for it’s money.

    I don’t expect gourmet — just a reasonable effort and AA didn’t bother to try.

  8. I once ordered a kosher meal on a flight to Israel on Passover. The meal was kosher but not kosher for Passover. It was served with a bread roll and a frozen steak. The flight attendant reheated the steak twice it was still frozen inside so I gave up and opted for an after meal cigarette. Also this was in 1997 lol

  9. If you need a “no fibre” meal, don’t ask for an American “bland” option as it will major on (for example) boiled carrot. This isn’t a criticism of American, just an observation. And I’m better now.

  10. Back in 2014, my EY flight from ORD-BLR got cancelled, and I was put on an AA flight to LHR. It had awful cold pasta. Worst in-flight meal ever.

  11. @Icarus That means high risk a normal passenger would be stuck with vegetarian meal – and it is unacceptable situation for most people. If you have particular taste that is not something others would happily have, go ask for it.
    No, almost everyone who are not vegetarian can easily tell between real meat and meat “substitutes”.

  12. That Indian curry looks quite good – and telling from my experience, Indian food generally carries its taste well into aircraft and I love them (especially Chicken Tikka, etc.) on airplane.

  13. The Asian Vegetarian sounds like a nice change from the same old boring stuff (particularly the meat AA can never seem to get right).
    What about the Hindu meal? Does anyone have any experience of what that has typically contained? I’m curious to try both on several upcoming domestic F flights in March.

  14. I ordered the Asian Vegetarian option for an early breakfast flight in FC on AA from BOS-DFW and it was very disappointing. It was a totally lame, plain omelet, some cooked tomatoes and mushrooms and a few potatoes. Nothing spicy or vaguely Asian about it. 🙁

    I’m tempted to order the Hindu vegetarian on the same flight later this week to see what that might be since it says no eggs on the website.

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