Forget flying to Bangkok to taste Thai Street Food. You can experience authentic Thai cuisine and hospitality at Bangkok Riceberry Restaurant in North Lakes.
Restaurateur Vicky (Wipamas) Breuer grew up in Bangkok, helping her mum cook and prepare meals using traditional Thai ingredients. When she moved to Australia, she observed that authentic Thai flavours were often missing from restaurant menus. Her passion for the authentic cuisine of her homeland led Vicky and her sister to establish a restaurant with a difference: a restaurant called Bangkok Riceberry, in North Lakes.
After arriving in Australia in 2006 on a student visa, Vicky graduated in commerce and marketing from Macquarie University. She was determined to learn English and support herself while studying by working in Thai restaurants, at the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas with her husband, Pavel who works in hospitality management, and assisting VIPs at Sydney’s Star Casino. The years of experience paid off as Vicky excelled in cooking, hospitality, and customer service.
“Who better to explain Thai cuisine to customers than a Thai person?” Vicky says.
Seeking a more affordable lifestyle for her family, Vicky moved to North Lakes in 2020.
“You can relax on Sunday and go to the beach,” she says. “People are friendly.”
During the pandemic lockdown, Vicky experimented with Thai recipes alongside her brother-in-law, a chef with a decade of experience. Her ultimate goal was to open a restaurant showcasing the traditional tastes and flavours of Thai cooking.
In December 2020, her dream became reality. Vicky and her sister Chanya opened the doors to Bangkok Riceberry restaurant in North Lakes.
“I want to make people happy through food. This is the Thai way.”
“Every dish is based on the food we eat at home. We’ve created authentic Thai dishes, stir fry sauces, Pad Thai noodle sauces, and traditional curries,” she says, revealing that Pad See Ew, curries and chilli basil are the most popular dishes at the restaurant. Kra-pow chicken with fried egg and Pad See Ew noodles (a stir-fry rice noodle dish with choices of meat, seafood, or veggies in a dark soy sauce) is a dish Vicky cooks for her own family.
“Every time I cook this dish, it reminds me of home,” she says.
Eating at Bangkok Riceberry is like being an invited dinner guest in a Thai family home. Customers are greeted with welcoming smiles, and regular patrons feel part of an extended family.
“I want to make people happy through food,” Vicky says. “I love talking to our customers, remembering them and what they like to eat. We want to give them the best customer service we can.”
A unique feature sets this restaurant apart - its namesake speciality of riceberry rice. Vicky discovered this variety of purple rice eight years ago on a trip home to Thailand. Riceberry rice is a low-GI rice packed with antioxidants and beneficial nutrients such as carotenoids, vitamin E, zinc, omega-3 and folate. Renowned in Thailand for its health-giving properties, it is claimed to slow ageing and lower the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and dementia.
“We wanted something different to attract customers. They’re delighted (the purple rice) tastes like white rice and is so good for them,” says Vicky, adding that she encourages customers to broaden their palette by trying more distinctive Thai flavours instead of the meld of Thai-Australian dishes.
“If you ask for coconut rice in Thailand, they won’t even know what that is,” states Vicky, explaining, “Not every Thai dish is spicy. If a dish is too spicy, the chilli can overpower other flavours, and you won’t taste the sweet, salty, or sour elements.”
Passionate about staying true to Thai culinary traditions, Vicky reveals some customers are surprised when they eat traditionally prepared meals for the first time. According to Vicky, a Thai curry should never be thick, as it is made using coconut milk instead of coconut cream. Thai eggplant and bamboo shoots are the only veggies added.
“We match curries with something fresh, or rice noodles, for balance. This way of eating is the traditional way Thai people eat their food,” she says, adding that she always welcomes customer feedback so she can correct a misunderstanding immediately.
Admitting the restaurant trade has felt the effects of cost-of-living pressures, Vicky remains optimistic the restaurant’s loyal customer base is her biggest asset. Valued staff members Jenny Ouiwatanapong and Team Paphawi Singsai are highly supportive of the restaurant’s success.
“It’s a happy workplace,” says Vicky.
Aside from offering a comprehensive menu of authentic starters, sides, mains and stunning fresh cakes for dessert, the restaurant has a community spirit. Students are trained in kitchen and hospitality skills, and Vicky is currently developing options to serve free meals to people experiencing homelessness in conjunction with a regional neighbourhood centre.
“This is the Thai way,” she tells me.
In reflecting on her career, Vicky is positive that her culinary journey has been a good role model for her children.
“Sixteen years ago, I was a student,” she says. “Now I own a restaurant.”