How Singapore Airlines reinvented its signature Lobster Thermidor

The most popular dish on Singapore Airlines’ Book The Cook menu receives a health-minded makeover.

By David Flynn, June 7 2022
How Singapore Airlines reinvented its signature Lobster Thermidor

Every airline has its iconic dishes, those perennial favourites of high flyers – meals which have become so intrinsically linked with that airline’s travel experience that removing it from the menu is out of the question, and even tinkering with it comes at great risk.

For Singapore Airlines, that signature dish is of course the Lobster Thermidor offered in business first class through the carrier’s Book The Cook service.

“The Lobster Thermidor sits at number one” on Singapore Airlines’s Book The Cook menu says Antony McNeil, the airline’s Global Food & Beverage Director, with almost 13,000 portions of the succulent shellfish served this year.

Changing up the crustacean recipe was therefore not something McNeil approached lightly, but something which needed to be done in light of a broader trend towards healthier eating.

“During Covid we ran through some of the Book The Cook dishes to refresh them, lighten them up a little bit, to make them a little bit more health-conscious while maintaining the integrity of the dishes” McNeil tells Executive Traveller.

“With the lobster, we stripped the recipe back and looked at the key components – it was quite heavy on cream and very heavy on cheese, so we removed a little bit of the cream and we reduced the cheese content – those elements still there, they are just not as heavy as previous.”

A lighter but still luscious lobster now features on Singapore Airlines' Book The Cook menu.
A lighter but still luscious lobster now features on Singapore Airlines' Book The Cook menu.

“But during the cooking process, we’ve taken a little bit more of the lobster stock and a little bit more cognac to enrich the base.”

“We also removed the saffron rice and replaced it with a fondant potato, which is basically grilled or caramelised and slowly simmered in the lobster stock so it takes up that enriched lobster flavour.”

“As for the veggies, the traditional asparagus remains, but then we have a balance of seasonal veggies that will rotate during the course of the year.”

Local flavours

For something with a more local flavour, Singapore Airlines continues to showcase a series of popular local dishes from the city-state’s renowned hawker centres. 

One of these – a deceptively simple chicken rice from Boon Tong Kee – was so popular, it replaced Singapore Airlines’ own vision of the dish at the beginning of this year.

“The sauces and condiments are made by the restaurant, so we’ve adapted the recipes here with their blessing to make sure it’s accurate and authentic to their original recipe of the restaurant.”

The chicken rice joins other hawker centre favourites in the Book The Cook “menu bank”, McNeill says, “and we are now putting these on a more frequent rotation.”

“So previously we might have updated Book The Cook once every six months, now we're looking to update it every three months or so.”

As previously reported, Singapore Airlines has also tweaked its first class caviar service offered to passengers in its Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 suites.

Singapore Airlines' revised first class caviar service.
Singapore Airlines' revised first class caviar service.

“Each passenger will receive an individual jar of caviar (instead of) the crew dishing it out,” McNeil explains.

These are 30gm jars of Oscietra Caviar, into which travellers will now delve using an elegant Mother of Pearl caviar spoon.

“We’ve just changed the presentation slightly to put the emphasis on more of an individual service, and part of that process is enjoying that caviar with a beautiful Mother of Pearl spoon,” McNeil says.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 786

The Lobster doesn't look as appealing but probably more healthy than the old dish, soon find out anyway. 

26 Jul 2015

Total posts 72

Wish they'd use Melba toast for the caviar rather than the blini.  I know, 1st world problem.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 92

The reinvention of its lobster Thermidor (I tried the new version last week in Suites SIN to FRA) is still debatable.

Like the person your friends warn you about but you can't stop seeking out, no matter how badly it ends each time, it depends on whether you:

1. Believe that sauces are designed to mask and drown the primary ingredient (in this case sweet lobster meat) or

2. You like anything drowned in a cheesy, smoky sauce with little concern about the protein flavour underneath

On both my flights the lobster meat was tender but had no taste whatsoever - the smoky cheesy sauce was heavy -handed and the vegetables an improvement and well cooked

The picture in the article is very different to how it looked inflight

The caviar service was excellent and the soups stellar, with the exception of the three supermarket standard instant noodles on the snack menu 

SYD
SYD

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 9

I had the chance to book the lobster on a recent Biz class flight to LHR. TBH, it wasn’t very nice - dry and overcooked. Whereas the beef fillet on my flight from SYD to SIN, and a salmon dish ex LHR were both delicious.

11 May 2016

Total posts 8

It is quite a surprise for the sky cook of AUS to cook as perfect a dish as in SQ business class while having the worst dishes for other airlines (incl. QF) lmao

I flew out of SYD in 2019 Nov and was surprised to find out how tender, juicy and delicious the lamb shank provided on the flight, while several hours ago I flew QF35 to SIN (mileage run), only to find out the pan-fried beef fillet was watery as if stewed in the plain boiled water. 

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 73

As a former food writer who's now Singapore Airlines cabin crew,

This is not something for those who're starting out in life.. It will take a while to develop a palate to be able to discern the things that are going on in here.  However, what we serve is nothing compared to a place near Moulin Rouge in Paris. 

As for the lobster, we recently reinstated them to Boston lobsters, hence the lighter notes from them. We previously used lobsters from India, which is more wholesome and rich. 

To help, request we mix around the rice and the sauce. If you're going to judge them component by component sure it's gonna taste bad. So order it on flights ex SIN 

I personally do recommend Singapore's local dishes tho. 

Michelin guide explained that they had to include a guide because in Singapore, they scientfically discerned 200 over flavors in a local dish which I can't recall. As a result the Michelin guide for Singapore is unusual in that it is generally mostly Asian fare, and is cheap.  Unlike Hong Kong, there's a method to the madness. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 92

levinn

"this is not something for this who're starting to in life"

Thanks for the tips on how best to maximise the dish

I first ate lobster Thermidor on Pan Am flights in F in the 70s, under the age of 10 and am now in my 5th decade

If my palate hasn't evolved yet, it never will!!

Qatar Airways

06 Jul 2016

Total posts 48

Few commentators noticed that SQ served 2 types of the Lobster Thermidor. One just called Lobster Thermidor, and the other called "Boston Lobster". The latter was also a Thermidor, and IMHO much better because of the soft sweet claw meat. Asian lobsters don't have claws.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 92

Good point pointyendmark

They are now one and the same although the portion size was much larger on my F flights than on the J flight from SIN to PER where I ordered it via BTC on the 0930 departure


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on How Singapore Airlines reinvented its signature Lobster Thermidor