Rice is Life is a whimsical celebration of rice for all you rice non-believers.
Rice has never been a favourite of mine. In fact, it’s the white starchy side-dish I’m most apt to leave uneaten. So when I heard of a pop-up event that promised to change my entire perception of rice, I just had to go.
“The concept came to me after I was volunteering in Karow at a refugee camp and saw a sign that stated Rice is Life. I thought it was hilarious and joked with my friends about it being my life motto.”
If someone told me Rice is Life, my first reaction would probably be to give them a big hug whilst slipping the number of a good grief counsellor into their pocket. But then, maybe I’ve just had too much boring rice dishes.
“I wanted to cook and share dishes that were taught to me when I was young. My heritage is a mix of Chinese Teo-Chew, Thai, Vietnamese and I was born and raised in Australia. Growing up, cooking and dining together was the most important aspect of growing the family bond. There are so many dishes that have great significance attached to them. I want to share this with people as I am so far away from my family, and it gives me so much peace and joy to do so.”
Recently, I’ve visited many high-end, expensive pop-up dinners, so I was relieved to discover that Rice is Life was a relaxed, intimate affair, held in the candle-lit back room of a Torstrasse bar. The four-course menu cost just 28€ which is… well, pretty great value.
Before our first course came out, Vicky stood before us and introduced the dish with a self-written prose poem which connected the dish to her own childhood memories of the flavours we were about to taste. A hush spread over the tables of diners, and we craned our necks to hear. Whilst this was going on, her cooking partner Martin Ku began to bring out our starter: “Bathing” rice noodles in a Thai broth.
I forgot that rice could be anything different than… well, boiled rice. So whilst eating this warm, spicy, nourishing soup, it never crossed my mind that I was at a rice pop-up at all.
Soon after, Vicky was in front of us again, ushering in the next course with another verse. I thought to myself: my God, I love it when you’re not left waiting for the next course. And, from the smells coming from their tiny prep kitchen, I was hungry.
This time the rice was concealed in the form of stuffed and fried rice-flour sheets. I see Vicky’s trick: she’s hiding the rice in textures, offering a different one for each course to highlight the other ingredients on the place. She’s a clever one. This was a savoury dish, like a deconstructed spring-roll salad, with pungent soy and garlic flavours.
When she came out to introduce our next meal, I realised that by sharing her connections with her food to us, we were also connecting. The previous pop-up I visited had used film to connect the diners to the theme, whereas here, the simple act of Vicky talking to us had the effect of making us one big family, sharing a collective food memory.
The main was sublime rice crisps atop a vegetable protein (see: fake meat) bed with a spiced carrot puree. As somewhat of a vegan philistine, I was surprised that this course turned out to be my favourite of the night. The crisp/soft textures won me over.
But after all this rice-bashing, I’ve always loved rice desserts. This time around it was glutinous rice balls filled with mung bean and served in a ginger broth.
There was no way that this wouldn’t be a great way to end the meal. And I must admit: I did drink the remaining ginger broth with a straw I stole from someone else’s drink. But that was more out of drunkenness/laziness than anything else.
Overall, Rice is Life is a perfect way to spend an evening for rice fans/rice haters alike. Vicky invites you into her kitchen and shares four bowls of her childhood with you. And, for 28€, what else could you wish for?
“I thought that Rice is Life was a great creative challenge, and honestly, it just sounds like philosophy to my ears. That’s why all dishes utilise the many forms of rice, and allows for diners to experience new flavours and rice’s versatility. Berlin allows for so many projects to be realised, and I thought- why not give it a go.”
Choose Life. Choose Rice.
Rice is Life @ Lust Bar
10115 Berlin, Germany