Meals inside Son Doong cave

QUANG BINH – A dinner in Son Doong cave usually has 7 dishes, with a balanced menu prepared by the chef in the cave, ensuring enough energy for visitors.

At 6:00 p.m., at sinkhole camp 1 in Son Doong cave, main chef Hong Quang and two assistants presented dishes for dinner. Members of the first conquest of Son Doong cave in 2024 returned to camp an hour earlier.

Dinner on the second day of the cruise includes grilled chicken dipped in salt, stir-fried beef with bell peppers, boiled pork, tofu with tomato sauce, french fries, sweet potato salad, winter melon soup, and side dishes. . Drinks are tea and coffee. A meal is considered “more than adequate” compared to a home-cooked meal and “spectacular” compared to a trekking tour, for about 18 to 20 people.

Processing grilled food at Son Doong tour camp, January 2024.

Dinner for tourists on the Son Doong tour, January 2024.

Rice paper rolls from Son Doong tour lunch, January 2024.

Processing grilled food at Son Doong tour camp, January 2024.

Son Doong tour is 4 days and 3 nights in the cave, with a total of 10 main meals and night snacks for tourists in need, including corn, potatoes, and grilled peanuts.

Mr. Hong Quang, 48 years old, from Quang Binh, has been the chef of the Son Doong tour for 7 years. Previously he worked at several local restaurants. To prepare meals for tourists, every day, Mr. Quang wakes up at 5 a.m., prepares breakfast, then cleans up and goes on the journey with everyone. He will return to the campsite earlier to make dinner, then continue cleaning and looking at ingredients for the next day, the work ending around 10pm.

Dinner is often the most elaborately prepared. Food for dinner has the same quantity as above, but the way of preparation will vary. “If you make stir-fried beef the day before, the next day it will be grilled beef rolled in betel leaves,” Mr. Quang said.

Breakfast and lunch are simpler but are rich, nutritious, and not repetitive, often including beef sandwiches, fried rice, instant noodles, rice paper rolls, crepes, and sandwiches. Guests in the group include Asians, Europeans, and Americans, so the food is prepared in a variety of ways so that everyone can eat, ensuring enough energy.

Mr. Quang is the one who plans the menu before each tour and prepares the ingredients himself. Food brought along will be refrigerated, ensuring freshness and completeness for the first two nights of the journey. On the third night, supplies will be delivered from the exit of the cave, crossing the Vietnam Wall in the opposite direction.

“Fish is not used as food on the tour because it is difficult to preserve. In addition, fish also has bones, posing a risk to eaters,” Mr. Quang said.

Mr. Quang prepares dinner at the camp.  Photo: Linh Huong
Mr. Quang prepares dinner at the camp during the Son Doong tour, January 2024.

Each tour has a main chef and one or two assistant chefs. Chefs of cave tours not only need cooking skills, but also have to be healthy because they also travel long distances like a conqueror, and at the same time have to carry more than 10 kg of luggage.

To specifically serve meals, the porter’s luggage includes a large gas tank, weighing about 20 kg, gas stove, pots, pans, bowls and chopsticks, cooking utensils, and other necessary items. When porters complete their daytime work, they will also assist in the kitchen every evening. Thanks to that, dinner for the tour group, tour guide and support group can be done in just about an hour. The support group will usually eat first, the meal will be simple, the guests will eat later and often more elaborately presented.

Hoang Anh, a member of the Son Doong expedition in early January, said he ate all his food at every meal, and even “helped” some people. “The meals in the cave are very delicious and delicious. The trays are all gone, making the chef very happy and more interested in his work.”

Mr. Nguyen Chau A, General Director of Oxalis Adventure and Oxalis Holiday, the exclusive provider of Son Doong tours, said the company carefully prepares and invests in meals for guests. When booking a tour, guests will be asked about their eating habits because in the deep forest there are no restaurants, nor can you buy extra food.

Because of these practical requirements, the company must have chefs who can cook well. “Fortunately, young people in Phong Nha or Tan Hoa who are working as chefs or assistants have all spent months in the forest, so they have learned how to cook well,” Mr. A said.

And according to Mr. A, when guests eat delicious food and compliment them, “the chef is very excited and looks for ways to further improve the quality of the meal.”

Behind the epic meals in Son Doong cave - 5
Dinner area at the camp, January 2024

Each Son Doong tour has an average of 10 guests and nearly 30 waiters. Among them, 20 porters carry luggage and food throughout the journey, 5 safety assistants, a tour guide, a cave expert, 2 chefs and a ranger. They are all local people and are regularly trained on safety and rescue. They made sure to bring 600 kg of equipment and supplies into and out of the cave, including waste. When the group left, the camps were cleaned, returning the original clean space.

The tour is located in the core area of ​​the national park and is far from all outside support such as medical, emergency or other support activities, although it is still equipped with a satellite phone for the tour guide to contact in case of an emergency. Emergency work. In case of emergency, there will be helicopter support.

Son Doong Cave is located in Son Trach commune, Bo Trach district, Quang Binh province, in the core area of ​​Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park and was named the largest natural limestone cave in the world in 2009. The cave was formed from about 2-5 million years ago, when river water flowed across limestone areas that were buried along a fault line. The water eroded and created a giant underground tunnel under the mountains. The cave is 150 m wide, more than 200 m high, and nearly 10 km long.

Son Doong tours are operated from January to August every year, each tour is limited to about 10 guests to ensure safety for participants, while taking time to regenerate the environment. Each year, about 1,000 to 1,200 visitors are allowed to explore Son Doong.

Photo,Video: Internet