Photos show what’s on the menu at AirAsia’s new restaurant that serves plane food on the ground

Around 30% of the restaurant's menu is taken from the airline's in-flight offerings.

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Around 30% of the restaurant’s menu is taken from the airline’s in-flight offerings.
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Courtesy of AirAsia
  • Most people can agree that in-flight food is pretty terrible.
  • However, AirAsia is betting on the opposite: that people secretly love it.
  • Its CEO revealed the plan in February, telling Larry King: “Our food is fantastic. We believe in it so much, we’re going to start a fast-food restaurant out of it.”
  • The airline just opened the restaurant at a mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Around 30% of the menu is the same as its in-flight one.
  • It plans to open at least five more restaurants in 2020.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

There are many things people love to complain about when it comes to flying, from exorbitant fees to invasive TSA practices to long lines. But the one thing people can undoubtedly agree on is the terribleness of airplane food.

Or can they? Turns out, some people secretly love in-flight meals. At least that’s what AirAsia, a Malaysia-based low-cost carrier, is banking on with its new restaurant, Santan Restaurant and T&CO Cafe, which opened at a mall in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

Keep scrolling to see what the restaurant, which serves in-flight meals on the ground, is really like.


Named Santan Restaurant and T&CO Cafe, after a type of coconut milk frequently used in Malaysian cuisine, AirAsia’s new restaurant features a variety of dishes from the airline’s in-flight menu.

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Santan’s new flagship restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

Guests can order online, or using these nifty touch-screen kiosks.

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Touch-screen kiosks at Santan’s new flagship restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

The restaurant’s general manager, Catherine Goh, said in a press release: “We have seen a significant appetite for our in-flight menu offerings beyond our flights across the region and this is our answer to that demand.”

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Vietnamese lemongrass chicken with rice.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

Source: AirAsia


She told Insider: “Last year alone, over 24 million Santan hot meals were served in-flight and often sparked positive conversations on social media.”


Goh explained that the Santan brand was introduced in 2015 as a gourmet in-flight dining experience (all meals cost extra), but that it is now “not just a brand, but a lifestyle.”

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Santan’s new flagship restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

According to Reuters, 30% of the menu on the ground came from the airline’s in-flight offerings, and that a team of chefs spent nine months coming up with the rest.

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Vietnamese chicken pizza.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

Source: Reuters


Beloved dishes from the in-flight menu include Thai basil chicken with rice …

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Thai basil chicken with rice.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

… nasi padang beef rendang, a kind of spicy Indonesian beef curry with rice …

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Nasi padang beef rendang.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

… and Uncle Chin’s chicken rice.

Around 30% of the restaurant's menu is taken from the airline's in-flight offerings.

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Uncle Chin’s chicken rice.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

New additions include Cambodian pineapple fish fillet noodles …

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Cambodian pineapple fish fillet noodles.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

… chicken satay with peanut sauce …

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Chicken satay with peanut sauce.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

… and fried chicken with nam prik mayo, a spicy chili sauce popular in Thailand.

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Fried chicken with nam prik mayo (a spicy chili sauce).
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Courtesy of AirAsia

One obstacle Santan faced? That our taste buds change at altitude. Much like having a cold, our senses are dulled, rendering food bland-tasting.

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Food tastes different in-flight than it does on the ground.
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katso80/iStock

Goh said that Santan adapted recipes accordingly, “to ensure that meals taste as good on the ground as they do in the sky.”

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Mee goreng with ayam goreng (spicy fried noodles with fried chicken).
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Courtesy of AirAsia

They just might have succeeded. Goh said that the restaurant went through 1,500 orders of Pak Nasser’s nasi lemak with chicken rendang (rice cooked in coconut milk with fried chicken) by noon on their first day of business on Tuesday, selling out.

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Pak Nasser’s nasi lemak ayam rendang (rice cooked in coconut milk with fried chicken).
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Courtesy of AirAsia

AirAsia usually sells around of 2.8 million of that particular dish annually, with an average of 7,000+ sold a day, and five per minute.

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A flight attendant on an AirAsia flight.
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Laurent Fievet/Getty Images

The restaurant currently has 4.3 stars on Google, with glowing reviews such as: “Tried my favourite dish during flights, Nasi Lemak with Ayam rendang, and as usual love it and in fact it tastes even better.”

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Santan has 4.3 stars on Google at the time of writing.
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Google

The restaurant serves bigger portions than those offered in-flight, but for a similar price. Meals cost between $1.90 and $2.90, or between $2.40 and $3.60 when purchased with a drink.

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Combo meals include drinks, such as coconut water.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

Santan has rapid expansion plans, with hopes to open five more outlets in 2020 and 100 franchise-operated restaurants around the world in the next three to five years.

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Santan’s new flagship restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
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Courtesy of AirAsia

Source: Reuters


AirAsia Group’s CEO Tony Fernandes wrote in a LinkedIn post from September: “A year ago, when I first conjured the idea of turning Santan and T&Co, our in-flight food choices, into a fast-food restaurant, everyone thought I was crazy. Just as they thought 18 years ago when I said I was starting an airline. Look how that turned out!”

Source: LinkedIn