6.048 Ssambap


22 (Sun) Feb 2015



on Asiana Airlines – OZ 703

-Incheon to Manila-


The Prodigal Son Returns to Shephard His Sons, Leg 2, Day 2 (see previously 6.047 Kimchi Jjigae).

Flew to ICN last-last FRI night, arriving at dawn SAT, hung out, back to MNL on TUE night with whole family in tow (see 6.043 Bibimbap), spent holiday with them (see most recently 6.046 Pan-Fried Egg Bean Curd…), flew again to ICN with everyone last FRI, arriving at dawn yesterday, and back to MNL again tonight.

Upgrade to business class, fully deserved.

Dear EK, please note the instructions at the bottom of the menu.

Though looking forward to comparing the Asiana business class bibimbap against its economy class counterpart (see generally 6.043 Bibimbap), as well as its competition on both levels over on Korean Air (see generally 6.021 Bibimbap), I was disappointed that the menu offered ssambap instead.

But then, once the ssambap was served, I was delighted to have been disappointed.

Tangpyeongchae (2.5)–a light and lovely way to start the meal…
…something of hybrid between japchae and tangpyeongchae.
This is what a business class meal should be, not just the same crap plated on porcelain, but real items with proper ingredients.
Maekjeok (2.25)–essentially bulgogi, pork instead of beef, as described on the menu above; reasonably well-balanced sweet-soy flavor; while somewhat dry in texture, didn’t matter much once wrapped in the greens.
Doenjang Guk with Shrimp (2.0)–a bit bland per se; nonetheless, I could appreciate that it was a bona fide soup, not rehydrated from powder; can’t recall if I’ve ever seen shrimp in doenjang guk.
Kimchi (3.0)–pogi-style (I’ll do a proper post on this someday), classy!
Ssamjang (1.5)–nuts in ssamjang, WTF?!?!
Myeolchi Bokkeum (-)–I never eat these dried mini anchovies, though in retrospect I should’ve sampled one (maybe that guy to the left of the green chili with the beady black eye), just to review it.

The pork, shrimp, and nuts in this spread–probably a non-issue for the vast majority of passengers flying to/from MNL/ICN–would categorically exclude many other travellers throughout the world from having it.

For wider accessibility, the airline should (i) adopt chicken as the main meat–untraditional, yes, but so is the very notion of ssambap on a plane; (ii) leave the soup plain, not even anchovy stock; (iii) remove the goddamn nuts from the ssamjang–ostensibly because of the allergy thing, but primarily because it’s weird–and forget about adding bits of octopus or whatever, which can creep some people out; and–so long as I’m taking it upon myself to redesign the entire menu–(iv) substitute something more universally embraceable–like maybe a couple pieces of jeon (see for example 4.084 The Hobak Jeon Taste Taste)–for the anchovies, which could be a bit much for the uninitiated.  Such tweaks would not only improve the spread but allow most everyone to enjoy it, even vegetarians (if they set the chicken aside).

You’re welcome.

Should’ve gotten a more definitive inventory, but I recall the vegetables comprising at least 10 varieties, including flat leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, perilla leafs, napa cabbage, crown daisy, carrot, red chili, green chili, and 2 others that I don’t know the names of–mix and match at personal pleasure…
…such as perilla leaf + napa cabbage + rice + ssamjang + maekjeok + crown daisy.
That purple-stemmed leaf, I don’t know the name of, in any language, who cares.

Side dishes aside, it was all about the ssam vegetables. Wide and well-balanced array, carefully selected to represent a bit of sweet, a bit of bitter, a bit of crunch, a bit of chew.  Fresh and immaculate, neither a speck of brown in appearance nor a hint of sag in vitality.  I can’t imagine how food on a plane could possibly get any more vibrant than this.

Overall, it was the finest in-flight meal that I’ve ever experienced.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think of eating fruit, but the mint garnish got me going.
Food must’ve been a huge factor.

So, in business and in economy, Asiana Airlines totally dominates Korean Air where Korean food service is concerned.

As always, I am grateful for and respectful of the opportunity to travel internationally, whether for fun or for work, especially via business class (see BEST IN FLIGHT), including airport lounge access (see in BEST IN LOUNGE).

9 thoughts on “6.048 Ssambap

  1. 1. i like your redesigned menu!
    2. i think asiana airlines beats korean air to overall services as well as food service.
    3. hmm, i agree with you that a menu could include explanations. also, foreigners are probably not that familiar with ssambap; two weeks ago, i attended a who collaborating center meeting with people from LAO, VTM, CHN, etc in seoul, and we had a course dinner that included ssambap; with a slight puzzled look, they asked me about how to eat ssambap. so, this case fails to support your idea about the korean psyche things. i even wonder if there is any pattern of this issue.

  2. 1. !!!!
    2. in terms of food, this certainly proves it.
    3. i do agree that certain dishes may require explanation, but my point was that Koreans–for whatever reason–make an extra effort to provide such explanation, when other cultures don’t.

  3. you are more experienced than i am; so, i tend to buy your thoughts. but this issue needs to be supported by solid evidence to prove your point; as i mentioned earlier, some chinese restaurant in manila does provide explanations for some dishes. i look forward to reading your post on well-organized discussion on this issue 🙂

  4. OR leave the perfectly respectable meal (which some jackass gave 3.5 stars to) alone and offer the non-allergenic bland alternative to those who are allergic or unadventurous. i think shrimp in doenjang soup is not uncommon (though usually still in shell, probably mostly for broth), and also believe that chopped nuts in ssamjang are not unconventional (albeit uncommon).
    i can only imagine your post if the meal came with chicken. (total crap, dried out chicken, never belongs with ssam anyway, blah blah…)

  5. also, how is an upgrade to business class “deserved”? was it bestowed upon you by the airline without additional consideration? or did you use miles, in which case you paid for or earned it? “deserved” implies some sort of subjective standard. i want to “deserve” an upgrade next time i travel to korea.

  6. @EK : the blog has to be evidence-based? i get enough of that at work, but I get your point.

    @LY : ouch, what’s with the vitriol? jeez. yes, it was a perfectly respectable meal. i was just commenting how it could be perfected to 4.0 AND made accessible to more people.

    as for the upgrade, i did it with miles. and i meant that i owed it to myself to relax on the final leg after all that trouble of going back and forth with the family.

  7. wow, impressive spread. my experience has been no where near as good, but i’ve never flown business. i flew to China from Canada on Air China, i believe, and they seemed to make up for lack of quality with quantity. Every few hours I was woken up and given something to stuff in my mouth, lol.

  8. quantity/frequency is also a good thing on planes. even though the food isn’t that great, it’s still fun to see what it is, so the more often they give stuff to you, at least it’s entertaining. the kids’ meals these days, which i showed in a prior post on bibimbap, is all about keeping them busy.

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