Szechuan Pork on a Plane – 14 of 365

Pork on a Plane

Remember in the not too distant past when Delta Air Lines somehow dared serve hot meals to 302 Orlando bound passengers on a one hour flight from Atlanta?  Fast forward 15 years to present day Vietnam where we can board a plane and jet back in time.  Does anyone really remember how that Delta lasagna tasted anyway?    I vaguely remember airplane food being the butt of more than one joke.  Do Vietnamese people tell jokes about sticky rice stuffed with chicken?  Now I fully realize eating pork in the flight deck 37,000 feet over central Vietnam lacks the street cred of squatting on a tiny stool down the street.  But then again, a meal served high over Vietnam is chock full of tastes we’d never find back home, right?

Or is it?  Where have I tasted this pork before?  Yeah, that’s it.  Item G5 off the Chinese takeaway menu found stuffed into every kitchen junk drawer in America.   My little tin contained a fairly close recreation of those thin slices of red hued meat passing as roast pork from Newport News to Newport Beach and all points in between.   This is admittedly a strange small world indeed when the same food American “flyover” country deems Chinese is now balanced atop 90 tray tables half a world away on a Vietnamese domestic flight.

I could carefully dissect Pork on a Plane’s ingredients, but really, you’ve had this dish before.  Literally.  Our purser’s catering slip even identified all this in English as Szechuan Pork.  How much more American can it get?   In fact you probably had some Szechuan Pork for lunch last week at Panda Express.  And truth be told I like Pork on a Plane.  I am lucky my job here lets me eat it a couple of times a week.   I’ve mentioned before I am neither food critic nor chef, and a celebrity chef would most definitely accuse my palate of being unrefined.  So my beloved Pork on a Plane is reheated in a galley over rather than charred over a grill in the middle of traffic like thịt heo nướng.  Big deal…in the end aren’t the vast majority of food consumers out there like you and me?  We know what we like and eat it without apology.

I Know a Galley Oven Isn't Quite Street Food...

Obviously the main dish is actually tasty enough, but I do find the sides a little curious.   I don’t think Ming’s Dynasty buried in the local Des Moines stripmall pairs the G5 combination plate with a small salad with Italian dressing and super sweet yoghurt.  I want my choice of egg roll or fried wantons along with some gloppy hot and sour soup with this airplane meal.   And no fortune cookie giving me my lottery numbers and some cheesy feel good quote?  Oh well.  When in Rome, right?   Pork on a Plane may lack all the proper trimmings but at least it rests on a bed of lo mein noodles that would be at home in any mall food court.

So what if Pork on a Plane is reheated in a galley oven rather than grilled over charcoal in the middle of traffic like thịt heo nướng?  It hits the spot on a two hour filght.  Now with the realization Pork on a Plane is one of my more favorite “Vietnamese” foods, I really do need to graduate from the baby steps to a pace leading me a little deeper into this country’s cuisine.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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