I recently returned to Austin, TX after a 2 week trip to the Philippines and Japan over Spring Break. I visited the Philippines many times as a child, with the last visit in 1986. I spent preschool years and 4 years as a pre-adolescent in Japan. I left in 1990. So going to visit both of these countries brings back a lot of good memories for me. My mom sponsored the trip for me and my daughter and my brother and his wife came as well. She booked the tickets with All Nippon Airways (ANA). This is a wonderful modern airline based out of Japan. The stewardesses are all dressed as a cohesive group with neckerchiefs blossoming like flowers. I appreciate the aesthetic they bring to the very long flight. They are also refreshingly polite and apologize if they wake you up because they are bringing you a vegan meal!
The process for requesting a special meal is quite easy. All I did was call the toll-free number on the ANA website and the helpful woman on the other end promptly tagged all our flights with the VGML request. There are several vegetarian meal options but VGML is the code if you want a vegan meal with no animal products.
When we boarded the aircraft and were getting seated, a lovely stewardess confirmed our meal requests and put a green sticker on our headrest designating our seats VGML. The one thing that is great about getting a special meal is it’s brought out first! You feel special instead of feeling left out like you would going to a steak restaurant where a vegan meal would be an afterthought on the menu.
Part of our trip (Austin to Chicago) was handled by United Airlines. I didn’t bother even calling them and just brought a snack.
I actually packed KIND Bars and GoMacro Organic Peanut Protein Bars because I knew I might end of being hungry and without options at some point.
Here are the meals we had on our long 13 hour flight over the US and Pacific Ocean from Chicago to Narita Airport in Japan.
For each meal, you are given a wet hand towel so you can have clean hands while eating. It would be great if all airlines did this.
If you are offered rice crackers, make sure they say “Suitable for vegetarians”. The normal rice crackers that are offered had shrimp powder in them. I generally get nausea on flights and also motion sickness during the taxiing of the plane after landing, so I have been getting in the habit of bring Yogi Ginger Tea bags with me. The staff was kind to always bring me hot water during beverage service. Yay, no Dramamine needed!
From Narita to Manila, a 5 hour flight, we were offered a yummy meal but I didn’t take a photo. It was a salad with dressing, a cabbage roll, a vegetable tofu ball with creamy jackfruit gravy with some kind of mashed potato and of course the bread roll that comes with every meal.
Philippine Airlines handled our short 1 hour flight from Manila to Puerto Princessa on the island of Palawan and back again.
They offered us a baked good each time. None were vegan so I passed and ate another one of my bars. The fun part of the flight was taking the stairs in and out of the plane and walking on the tarmac to a tiny island airport.
In the domestic terminal in the Manila airport, I was able to find vegan Laing at a little food stall called Isla Cafe. Laing is from the Bicol region of the Philippines known for the use of coconut and chilies. It is made with taro leaves and coconut milk. I would say it’s similar to Saag Paneer but without the paneer and the spices used in India. It was served on top of rice.
If you see Laing in the PI, it might not be vegetarian so you have to ask and make sure there is no fish or pork in it.
The flight from Manila to Haneda Airport near Tokyo, Japan was a shorter flight and we were served this for lunch.
The last flight on ANA was from Narita Airport all the way to Houston, TX. I was so done with flying by then but was happy I was on ANA and could be guaranteed some decent hot food. We were served 2 meals, including this spaghetti with green olives and tempeh. The other meal is the one I didn’t photograph because I thought I took a picture of it the first time (so I did have the same meal during the overall trip twice).
This sandwich came in between the meals. My daughter still doesn’t care for asparagus so I ate hers while she ate some trail mix we purchased before we left at Whole Foods.
On a whole, I was satisfied with what ANA offered us. It was nice to have a hot meal and not to have to eat vegan bars on all the flights. All Nippon Airways どうもありがとうございます! Keep a lookout for more posts as a bring you to paradise on Palawan island and a super stimulating visit to Tokyo!6