Sick of airplane food and not interested in airport food, but pleasantly surprised by airport hotel food!
We’re on our way from Kuching to Honolulu, but we made an overnight stopover in Kuala Lumpur first. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time in KL to get any mamak or roti canai. Breakfast was a bowl of porridge, while lunch was a McDonald’s cheeseburger and a Diet Coke at KL International Airport. Totally uninspiring.
The second leg of our journey took us from KLIA to Taipei, Taiwan. Our onboard airplane meal was special – especially horrible, that is. We should have known something when the supervisor at the check-in counter warned us about the kosher meal that Annie and I had reserved.
When we flew over to Malaysia from California back in 2009, I specified that I wanted kosher meals instead of the regular meals that everyone else would be getting. Yes, I know I’m not Jewish and don’t have any reservations about eating pork. But I just thought that since airplane food was generally bad anyway, then why not try something different.
Do you ask for different meals on plane flights? What kind and why? Leave a comment below!
It turned out to be a good thing on the flight out of the US, because where everyone else got the typical overcooked chicken or beef, I got bagels and smoked salmon, cheese, and other delectables. My meal was the envy of others. So I decided to ask for a kosher meal again on the flights from KL to Taipei to Honolulu, and Annie as well.
Big mistake. BIG mistake.
At the check-in counter, the supervisor wanted to clarify with us that we had ordered the kosher meals. He said that they come shipped frozen from elsewhere and no one was allowed to touch the meals besides the recipient. Then he said that if we didn’t like the meal, we could ask for something different and then cancel the kosher meal at the transit counter in Taipei. We thanked him for the information, but didn’t think anything of it.
On the plane, they served the kids’ meals first and then our kosher meals. I was helping Esther open up her items when Annie tapped me on the shoulder.
“This is horrible. Absolutely horrible. It’s like a TV dinner.”
“What?” I looked at my box. The label said it was made in Belgium. I tore open my package.
Airplane Kosher Meal
This is not what I was expecting. There was some wet orzo and oversteamed veggies with a tasteless chicken breast. Then there was some nasty tuna spread, and finally some kind of apple pie dessert that was cold, soggy, and generally gross.
Where was my bagel and smoked salmon?
“I can’t eat this. It’s making me sick,” Annie declared. She called the flight attendant and asked for a regular meal.
“I’ll see what I can do,” she replied. Soon she came back with one of the crew’s meals: a piece of baked cod with potato in a mushroom cream sauce. MUCH better.
I managed to scarf down the tuna by spreading it on some crackers. The rest of the meal remained uneaten. Fortunately, Esther wasn’t interested in her meal either so I finished the remainder of her spaghetti and sausage.
What’s for Dinner?
As soon as we got off the plane, we went to the transit counter to change our meal plans for the flight from Taipei to Honolulu. With that settled, there was still the matter of where we were going to eat dinner. The man at the transit counter suggested the kiosk just behind him.
We had an overnight layover in Taipei, and we were booked into a hotel just 5 minutes from the airport. The man said that there was no street food or restaurants nearby the hotel. So we would either have to eat in the airport, or in the airport hotel.
Faced with that dilemma, I figured it would be better to get checked into our hotel so we could drop our bags and freshen up, then take our chances with the hotel’s restaurants.
Our hotel was the Hotel Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport. This was no musty old 2-star. It turns out that this is a 4-star hotel, on par with the best hotels in Kuching! The rooms were well appointed and came with nice touches like the bidet toilet seats in the bathroom (I haven’t seen a bidet since our trip to Japan last year where I really got to liking them).
After we dropped off our bags, we went back downstairs. We weren’t feeling like Western food, so we decided to check out the Chinese Restaurant up on the 2nd floor. We’re glad we did, because the decor, service and food all were a pleasant surprise.
Chinese Restaurant @ Hotel Novotel Taipei Taoyuan
There weren’t too many people having dinner at 8 o’clock, so we were seated right away. After browsing the menu, Annie ordered a couple different kinds of Shanghai-style soup dumplings, plus some deep fried mantou (steamed bread). These soup dumplings were rather large, but that just meant more delicious broth was trapped in the skin waiting to burst out. The kids devoured the deep fried bread, made irresistible with spoonfuls of sweetened condensed milk.
Shanghai-Style Soup Dumplings and Fried Bread
I wanted to get a pot of stewed pork belly, but they were out by then. The waitress suggested we try the Wuxi-style braised pork ribs. To go along with that, we also ordered a hand-made, pan-fried scallion pancake.
Braised Pork Ribs and Pan-Fried Scallion Pancake
There was so much meat on those ribs, they should have called it pork belly with rib bone. And this pork was astoundingly, melt-in-your-mouth tender. Such an amazing dish. The scallion pancake, however, did not live up to its expectations. It was good, but there was a peppery spiciness to the scallion filling that I didn’t quite like.
What we did like, though, was the prices. The dumpling dishes were quite reasonable, especially given the quality. The total cost of dinner (including service charge), was only 1024 New Taiwan Dollars, or about 105 Malaysian Ringgit or 35 US Dollars! We would have paid more than that in KL for the same kind of food.
So while our breakfast, lunch and airplane meals were less than spectacular, dinner at the Chinese Restaurant in Hotel Novotel Taipei Taoyuan was stellar. I’ve got to make sure we get into this hotel on the return trip. The thing is, we really are interested in tasting some Taiwanese street food while we’re here. Maybe we can even visit the legendary Din Tai Fung for some more out-of-this-world Shanghai dumplings.
What do you think?
This is the first in a series of posts about our trip to Hawaii. Stay tuned for the rest of the story! Make sure you subscribe to our site to get all our latest updates in your Inbox or your RSS reader.