Draped across a small bed, surrounded by fluffy cushions, bright balloons, a soft pink pig and a birthday cake, Nhut Nguyen romantically drapes his arm around a rice cooker. “It’s my girlfriend’s birthday,” he says. However, this is no ordinary birthday. This is a party for an electrical appliance.
Nhut is one of the many Vietnamese millennials who are currently embracing a trend for embracing their rice cookers. The Vietnamese internet is now awash with such images: girls holding rice cookers on mountains, boys going on romantic motorbike trips with their rice cooker, people watching sunsets with their rice cookers, and more. Eschewing real-life lovers and all the roses and teddy bears that go with it, they are opting to hang out with a piece of kitchenware instead.
No, I’m not drunk. I’m not crazy. This is actually happening. I can confidently say in my two-plus decades of living in Vietnam, this is the weirdest trend I have ever seen. And I have seen a fair few odd habits and trends among the nation’s youth. I am one of them after all.
“You don’t need a lover when you have a hottie rice cooker”
The rice cooker as girlfriend trend was apparently started by Vietnamese netizen Nam Truong, according to the Kenh14, a news and entertainment website. Finding himself single, alone and without a partner, earlier this month he flew to the beautiful Vietnamese mountain town of Da Lat and began taking photographs of himself with his “gorgeous” red and white medium-sized rice cooker. It seems they had many touching moments together.
Within days, the story had struck a chord with thousands of Vietnamese youth across the country, as they began taking pictures of themselves with their rice cookers in obscure places and posting them on social media.
“You don’t need a lover when you have a hottie rice cooker,” one young Vietnamese girl wrote. Soon it seemed people didn’t have to worry about being single on Valentine’s Day or feeling isolated by the coronavirus. You could simply rush down to the kitchen and hug your electric bae. Others were shocked. It seemed they had left the internet for a couple of days only to return and find everybody had gone temporarily insane. At least, I hope it is temporary.
Soon the Facebook Group “Vietnamese Rice-Cooker Game’ was opened. In about two weeks it swelled to over a quarter of a million members. Yes! A quarter of million. To be precise it currently stands at 291,498 members. This makes it one of the biggest online youth groups in the entire country. The admin of the group described this group as a place for anyone who “has a passion for the rice cooker, a place to come and exchange your maintenance experience, or to trade or show off your rice cooker collection.” The playful trend has become a playground for bored youth to show off their creativity.
Ngo Gia Tien posted his selfie with a black colored rice cooker, which said: “I just met this dark skin tone bae”
Luu Quoc Hai was more philosophical, telling the group. “Some people choose to love a rice cooker, simply because they are tired of giving everything and ending up with nothing”.
Tran Cong Doan happily shared his moment showering his electrical cooker with flowers: “She burst into tears, guys!”
Some people joined the group out of curiosity or because they thought it was funny, but others are genuine rice cooker obsessives, in love with the details of how to maintain and care for rice cookers properly. Surfing through the group, you can see most posts are of people hanging out and taking care of their cutesy little rice machine. They use warm words such as “partner,” “honey” and “wife” in their captions. Looking at these saccharine words, I felt as if I were walking on air.
Many who adore their rice cookers having taken to arranging small, quirky offline events to get together and show off their electric ‘lovers.’ Two weeks into the craze and things have moved even further, it is not just electric rice cookers that are being shown the love, and a variety have spin off groups celebrating all manner of electrics and appliances have sprung up. There is an electric fan group, a gas stove lovers Group, the TV remote lovers group, a water pump Group and even weirder, a busy Facebook group for people who don’t even use Facebook.
Hmmm. Perhaps all this goes to show that if you cannot find a young human lover in the flesh, it matters not, as there will always be a cute electrical gadget for you to hang with and watch a movie together.
Boyfriend, girlfriend or just plain single, it seems youth all over the country have now gained tremendous knowledge related to cookery and rice cookers from this whole episode: how to sanitize rice cookers, the place to buy them, the best quality brands, how to cook the perfect batch of rice. The more you learn about electric rice cookers, the more you find out just how little you knew before. Now is the ideal time to open your eyes and expand you knowledge of rice cookers. It can only help the future of cooking across the country. Here at Chào, we salute all young Vietnamese and their crazy creativity.