Travel Story Singapore Airlines celebrates 50 years of Aussie flights with foodie fun

Photo of Amanda Keenan

The airline's special commemorative menu begs the question: what's Australia's national dish? 

The 50th anniversary of Singapore Airlines flying to Australia posed a particular quandary. For celebrations, the full-service airline designs a menu to honour the nation’s cuisine. Japan — fairly obvious. So, too, somewhere such as India or China. But what would feature on the Aussie card?

Would economy-class passengers juggle an over-sauced meat pie and a tin of frosty lager or a Tip Top toastie with Kraft singles? 

Would the silk-cut set in business class dig into smashed avo on sourdough — or perhaps a lamb chop with mint jelly and a couple of Old El Paso tacos. 

It turns out there’s much more to Australian cuisine than that. We may not have a national dish but we do have a cornucopia of native ingredients — and that’s what Singapore Airlines has incorporated into its special commemorative menu.

The airline and the team at Alpha Flight Services catering company recently debuted the menu, to be served aboard all flights from Perth through April and June, in an exclusive tasting (gorging). 

Let’s just say it’s the first time we’ve had four breakfasts for lunch. And that was only the entree.

Interestingly, one of the economy-class dishes — a velvety scoop of scrambled egg with a generous serve of hot-smoked salmon and native sage bechamel — was one of the stand-outs.

We also loved the business class smoked Tassie Ashgrove cheese omelette, which came with a tangy kutjere (bush tomato) relish, plus bacon, mushroom, tomato and Lyonnaise potato.

Come May, passengers at the front-end of the plane on flights ex-Perth will wake up to fluffy and not-too-sweet ricotta pancakes with wattle seed “creme” and spiced plum. Economy-class travellers will start their day with scrambled eggs (a common airline breakfast because it reheats well) with sea parsley, a lean and textural chicken sausage, bush tomato pepperonata and a potato nugget that conjured warming childhood memories of Findus pommes noisettes (“they’re better than chips!”) 

But the dish of the day was an elegant hunk of native dukkah-crusted Tasmanian salmon, which was perfectly pink in the middle (surely a challenge in an aircraft galley). It came with half a bush of spiced tomato, spinach and creamy potato and was the kind of dish you’d happily pay for at a good bistro. 

The May menu switchover will deliver to the business-class cabin a main meal of chicken breast stuffed with macadamia, with roasted beets, pumpkin mash and — wait for it — charred kale. It could have been a disaster but it’s actually a triumph that tries just hard enough.

The economy-class mains are, of course, a little less fancy but still a decent size — and packed with flavour. These dishes include beef braised in bush spices with vegies and a pretty terrific garlic mash. In May and June it’s stewed lamb with the same accoutrements. 

Desserts are brilliant: the business-class quandong ice-cream is a revelation, and should be in supermarket freezers immediately. Same goes for the pavlova passionfruit ice-cream.

But here is another win for economy-class passengers: behold a lovely lamington with wattle seed sauce, and a sticky fig pudding with butterscotch sauce. Very cute touches that will no doubt win many fans. 

Alpha’s executive chef James Koh said the Singapore menu proved a challenge, since many native ingredients were not readily available in the volume required for a commercial airline. But he said the collaboration had been a labour of love.

“Each dish has been carefully crafted to showcase Australia’s amazing native food culture.”

Luxury ingredients such as lobster and marron were disqualified due to their failure to stand up to high altitude. Prawns, however — despite their deep-sea digs — hold up very well at 39,000 feet, and are featured on the menu ex-Sydney.

Singapore Airlines has always been at the vanguard: they were the first airline to offer complimentary headsets and alcohol service — once- luxurious perks that are now standard across most full-service airlines. 

And back before in-flight entertainment, they even provided live music for passengers. Regional vice-president Tan Tiow Kor said the special menu was a way of thanking Australian customers who have developed an affinity with Singapore Airlines over the past 50 years.

He also said it was an opportunity for the national flag carrier to “showcase the influence Australian culinary culture has had on the the Singapore Airlines culinary experience”.

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