Big Mouth

Rice Palace

More stories from Maggie Cipriano

On Hawai’i Time
December 3, 2018

When entering Rice Palace, faint Asian pop music plays in the background, with matching videos on the single television, and the clink and clank of dishes in the kitchen in the back. The front windows allow natural light into the space. On the wall, there is a poster of all of the different types of drinks available. There are pictures of boba, or bubble tea, and their fanciest drink which is served in a coconut.

For some, it may be hard to choose a favorite cuisine. For me, this has always been an easy choice. Asian food. The mixture of flavors in a single bite are incredible: sweet and salty, hot and sour and so on. Each bite is different and exciting.

I am a regular at Rice Palace. Ordering a small bowl of chicken pho — which defies its name — and either an order of crab rangoon, steamed rolls or a shrimp spring roll.

The bowl of chicken pho comes out next to a plate of pho add-ons: cilantro, thai basil, lime wedges, bean sprouts, green onions and jalapenos. With just the standard add-ons, the flavor combinations are seemingly endless. However, there are more flavor combinations at the end of the table.

The end of the table is stocked with a plethora of sauces. On the platter sits bottles and jars covered in non-english labels. Russian roulette with sauces. Which is the hottest? What is this paste?

Most of the sauces smell nothing like what we are accustomed to with classic American food. Let me tell you, however, these sauces are capable of opening your tastebuds to new experiences. There is fish sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, beef paste, Sriracha and chili oil (little bit goes a long way here).

Pho is so versatile with all of the toppings and mix-ins. For me, the perfect pho starts with squeezing the lime wedges, tearing Thai basil into bits, cilantro, as many green onions as is acceptable, and a few jalapeno slices.

As for the sauces, I add beef paste, rice vinegar and enough chili oil to almost burn my mouth beyond repair. These add salty, sour, sweet and spicy flavors to the already-flavorful broth.

After I eat as much pho as possible, I move onto the shrimp spring roll. The spring roll is filled with chewy rice noodles, thin slices of carrots and cucumber, cilantro, lettuce and of course, perfectly cooked shrimp. This is all encapsulated in a thin rice paper wrap and served along a tangy, salty dipping sauce topped with nuts.

The extensive menu has noodle dishes, rice dishes, meat centric meals, soups and so much more. With the wide variety, and the fact that a lot of asian food is vegetarian and vegan, there is an option for everyone.

Within the wide variety of food options, there is a wide variety of prices. The appetizers can vary from less than four dollars, whereas some of the meat based meals can be much more spendy. Overall, one can buy a full, hearty meal at a great price.

As my last week in Eau Claire — and my last week of being Big Mouth — comes to an end, I am ending it the best way I can, at Rice Palace filling myself up with pho.