Emirates Chef and Regional Catering Manager, Ravi Nage. Picture by Zanele Zulu

In discovering a journey on how India’s diverse cuisines and culture are curated to suit taste at 40,000 feet, Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, presented an enhanced menu offering this week in Durban to educate people on how cuisine is brought to life onboard, across its nine Indian destinations. 

The event was held at Osa Restaurant, a beautiful, trendy restaurant situated at Fairmont, Zimbali, north of Durban. 

Chef and Regional Catering Manager, Ravi Nage presented Emirates food philosophy and gave us a behind-the-scenes look on how one of the airline’s most diverse cuisines is created, as well as an overview of Emirates food and beverage strategy.

With a population of over 150,000 locals with ties to India and a wider global diaspora of Indians living around the world, the airline has a food offering that reflects the regional nuances of Indian food.

Nage prepared a few dishes, from starter, main to dessert that we got to taste. For starters we had, hara murgh tikka, green papaya salad and green chilli and garlic, scallops, aloo tikki, mango salsa, malvani chicken curry both paired with an old vine reserve chenin blanc.

For the mains we had shahi mutton korma, safron rice, aloo gobi mutter, paneer makhani, jeera pulao masaledar aloo, dal palak and paneer mutter masala, mushroom pulao with a choice of pairing between an old vine reserve chenin blanc or porcupine ridge syrah.

Rasmalai. Picture by Zanele Zulu

And for dessert, we had rasmalai.  

I’m a big fan of chicken meat and I loved how the chicken meat was presented so differently in both the starter and main dishes. The chef proved that you can indeed prepare and serve chicken is so many different ways. I also liked the presentation of the rasmalai but it was too sweet for me I couldn’t finish it.

“With our Indian menus, it’s very much a nod to the simplicity and comfort of a home cooked meal. With each region and state in India having distinctive culture and cuisine, you cannot look to a one-size-fits-all approach. So, whether it’s a condiment typical to a city, or sweet associated with a festival, we try to bring those flavours onboard,” he said.

Asked how do they plan and prepare, Nage said they do four cycles in a year and sometimes seasonal depending on the components of the menus created. He said travellers on Kolkata flights enjoy popular dishes from the eastern part of India, while passengers to Ahmadabad can sample region-specific dishes featuring the freshest ingredients.

Malvani Chicken Curry. Picture by Zanele Zulu

“On the South African routes, Emirates customers can savour the taste of India with dishes such as the newly introduced rooibos cured salmon, avocado puree, ostrich pastrami, rye bread crostini, spinach pesto, ostrich tartare, marbled quail egg, mossbolletjies bread, fillet of ostrich, Stellenbosch red verjus sauce with smoked ostrich lardons and a scrumptious cajun and paprika chicken breast roasted, rooibos tea jus,” said Nage.