Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!
Eating an in-flight meal is not guaranteed to be a soy-free experience. From sauces to breads, there are many places where soy can sneak into your meal at 26,000 feet. Our strategy to limit the presence of soy is to request a gluten-free meal ahead of time and bring plenty of snacks. But, we’ve only ever done this on American or European airlines. Is it possible to avoid soy on an Asian airline?
I recently took a few long-distance flights on ANA, a Japanese airline. Instead of requesting a specific meal, I opted to see what the typical meal would be. I wanted to see which menu items contain soy and how easy it is to eat soy-free on an Asian airline. On the plane I was served two separate meals, dinner and breakfast. For each meal, I was offered two different options: a Japanese dish or a Western dish. (As an aside, I’d like to point out that calling the second meal “breakfast” is fairly misleading. The Western “breakfast” dish was lasagna, and it was served at about lunch-time using Japan time). I was feeling adventurous, and I wanted to explore the use of soy, so I opted for the Japanese option for both meals. Here is what I ate:
Buckwheat noodles, nori (seaweed), wasabi - separate sauce
Miso-grilled Spanish mackerel, served with rice
Vegetables (lotus root with soy-based sauce, boiled soybeans)
Ice cream (Vanilla)
Fried chicken and Chinese noodles
Overall, a surprising amount of the food was soy-free! For dinner, the smoked salmon, buckwheat noodles without sauce, rice without the mackerel, and vanilla ice cream were easy to identify as soy-free options and provided enough food to constitute a meal. Similarly, a breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt was quite substantial and easily determined to be soy-free.
While soy was present in several places, the whole meal felt very approachable. For example, I loved how the sauce was separate for the noodles. This simple separation made it much easier to eat a soy-free meal and allowed for that ever-important customization for people with food requirements. Additionally, the menu did a good job of identifying where soy was present. The menu used phrases like “miso-grilled” or “soy-based sauce” to make it easy to figure out which items contained soy. The flight attendants hand out menus right before ordering, and then they take them away after you order. To be sure you know what you can eat (or what items contain soy), take a picture of the menu when you receive it. Then you can refer back to the menu while you are eating. ANA also publishes their menu online by the month, so you can get a sense for the food options in advance. However, since there are several different options, you won’t know exactly what meals you’ll be offered until you are in the air.
I really enjoyed the ANA in-flight dining experience, and the soy-free options were much better than I expected. By keeping the sauce separate, I was able to find a similar amount of soy-free food to when we’ve requested gluten-free meals on other airlines. Even with the positive experience I recommend bringing plenty of extra food because you never quite know what the options will be and food options can be limited on an airplane. But, that being said, I was encouraged that ANA’s meals offered enough variety to provide a few soy-free options during the flight. They even offered fresh fruit in the galley between meals, which was a great soy-free snack mid-flight!
While some soy did exist, don’t be afraid to fly ANA! I was able to find a soy-free portion of the in-flight meals to enjoy during the flight, and would definitely choose to fly ANA again from a food perspective.