It's no secret that airline meals can be quite terrible at times, and when you add in the element of ordering the vegetarian meal, things can get even worse. I've set food on fire that had more flavor than some business class meals I've been offered. This is a significant problem, especially with domestic carriers... I'm looking at you American Airlines.
On the flip side there are a few standouts in my mind, so without further ado, here are my choices for the top 3 vegetarian meals I've eaten on board long haul flights.
No. 3 - American Airline - Business Class 777-200 - LHR to ORD
While this is technically vegetarian, I listed this at number 3 because it wasn't a VGML meal that I had pre-ordered since I was bumped up to business class on this flight last second. None the less, this was still a very good meal, and seems to be fairly consistent with my experiences out of Heathrow. Food out of Heathrow tends to be a little better than out of Philadelphia where I've had far too many poor experiences.
The meals on this flight consisted of a fairly good salad, though the balsamic dressing was a miss as this brand that is very common on carriers, is awful. The oil in the vinaigrette always tastes bad.
Following the salad was the caprese salad. While I'm not a fan of tomatos, the mozzarella was much better than anticipated and the pesto was very tasty. This was a surprise, I didn't expect this dish to be very good since I don't usually gravitate to cheese, or to a caprese.
Main course side of the equation was a cannelloni pasta, with more cheese. More dairy in one day than I had in the prior year, but it was quite well executed taste wise. The sauce was a little overpowering, and I would have liked to see more veggies, but overall that dish was tasty and not too large of portion.
No dessert on this one since the only remaining item was ice cream and I had more dairy that day than I could handle. If you want to see the full review of the meals on this flight, check out my 777-200 Meal Review from March.
No. 2 - Delta Airlines - Economy Class 767-300ER - AMS to EWR
That's right an economy meal made the list and that may say more about the state of meals in the air in general than of the quality of this one meal. All other factors aside though, Delta did a pretty good job on this one.
Catered out of Amsterdam, this was a VGML meal so it was vegan and vegetarian. As economy meals often go, everything was served on a single tray all at once. The salad was nothing great, and the bread was run of the mill as well. What stood out to me was the main course. While at the time I found the flavors to be a little at odds with the different components, each individual idea and taste was pretty good.
The highlight by far here was the marinated tofu. Not ofen is it that I praise tofu. Tofu is one of those ingredients that can be done wrong in 100 different ways, but is rarely done right. An airplane at 30,000 ft was the last place I expected to find it done right. Amsterdam's catering service nailed this in a way I wish I could actually reproduce on the ground.
Kudos to Delta on this one, if you want to see the overall review check out the article on Delta's 767 Flight from Amsterdam to Newark.
No. 1 - United Airlines - Business Class 787-8 - IAH to SAO
This was actually my very first business class experience on an international flight and boy did United nail this one. For me this whole flight was memorable food wise, since they went Indian on the dishes and that is always a hit with me.
These flights, the best part was the main course, the appetizers left a lot to be desired, so I'll stick with the main course here. United served an Indian inspired spiced dish of Okra in a sauce on top of rice. The second component was some other Indian dish with beans for the protein.
Basmati rice is definaely my favorite type of rice and United delivered. The spices were on point, both dishes were flavorful and a perfect way to eat a VGML, vegan/vegetarian meal. Well executed, out of a United hub, there is nothing more that can be said exept that this portion of the meal exceeds any other in flight meal I've had to date, including ones that we'ren't strickly sold as VGML meals. Well done United.
My full review of that flight's food is over on my United 787 business class food review.