Japan has earned plenty of foodie cred over the last few years. Tokyo has topped multiple lists of the best cities in the world to eat out in, morning talk shows showcase delicious, hole-in-the wall restaurants and bakeries almost every day, and this month even provincial Hiroshima got its own Michelin Guide.
But even with a nation of enthusiastic diners and gastronomic craftsmen ready to serve them, airline food is, for the most part, nothing to get too excited about. Unless you happen to be flying ANA internationally, that is, where you can now get Ippudo ramen.
Hakata Ippudo, also known as plain old Ippudo, is one of Japan’s most loved ramen chains. Founded in Fukuoka on the southern island of Kyushu, it now has location across Japan and even overseas, with its New York branch showing up in the city’s Zagat guide. Ippudo features a number of ramen variations, but what keeps people coming back are its two most popular port broth offerings, the simple shiromaru ramen and spicy miso-enhanced akamaru ramen.
ANA announced that it will be offering Ippudo ramen as an in-flight meal to first and business class passengers on international flights connecting Japan with Europe or North America.
Flyers heading to or from Europe can dine on Ippudo’s newly created soraton, or “pig in the sky” ramen, based on the best-selling shiromaru with a bit of the fragrant oil used in akamaru mixed in. The noodles are the extra thin variety usually associated with Kyushu ramen and cook in just a minute and a half. “As you eat the soraton, the oil blends together with the broth,” Shigemi Kawahara, the CEO of Ippudo’s parent corporation Chikara no Moto Company, pointed out. “The flavors really come together nicely.”
Although Ippudo is best-known for its pork broth ramen, Kawahara explained that due to legal regulations, the company could not import the pork extracts necessary to make the soraton broth to North America. Instead, the menu on flights to or from North America includes Ippudo’s new soy-sauce broth furusato (“hometown”) ramen, with thicker noodles than the soraton and garnished with dried seaweed.
Although this is ANA’s first collaboration with Ippudo, the airline has been offering ramen for some time. The second meal for first and business class flyers is served whenever the passenger requests, with simple menu options including sandwiches, hamburgers, and ramen. Roughly 60% of passengers opt for ramen, so ANA decided to team up with Ippudo to provide a tastier in-flight meal experience.
The development process for soraton and furusato was far from easy, as Ippudo had to deal with legal regulations and other complications such as the lower boiling point of water inside a pressurized cabin. “It was difficult, but in the end we were able to make a broth with the flavor our fans have come to expect from us,” boasted Kawahara.
Ippudo ramen will be available on ANA flights starting June 1. Passengers not yet familiar with the brand might be wary of ordering ramen after shelling out for a first class ticket, but we suspect that there’ll be no complaints once they taste it.
Sources: Aviationwire, ANA
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