Tracey Lister - Vietnam

TRACEY LISTER: Chef, food writer

Visit Tracey's website

Falling in love with Vietnam over salt-and-pepper quail eggs and an icy beer, Melbourne-born chef Tracey Lister has since made Hanoi her home, where she runs a successful cooking school with her husband, Andreas Pohl.

After 15 years working as a chef in Melbourne, Tracey made the move to Vietnam to help train underprivileged kids in hospitality through Hanoi’s renowned KOTO restaurant. Tracey now runs the Hanoi Cooking Centre, which hosts a variety of cooking classes that delve into the intricacies of Vietnamese and world cuisine  - and which was just listed as one of the best cooking schools in the world!

Tracey and her husband have written two cookbooks: KOTO, a culinary journey through Vietnam and their latest release, Vietnamese Street Food. Meet Tracey on day two when you join her for a market visit and a cooking class.

Describe the moment you fell in love with Vietnamese food

The very first night in Saigon I had boiled quail eggs in salt and pepper, and beer with ice, and I feel in love with Vietnam then and there. The dish is one of the simplest things: beautiful fresh eggs and perfumed pepper. Loved it.

5 favourite Vietnamese dishes?

Pho – beef or chicken noodle soup

Bun Cha – grilled pork patties and belly with rice noodles

Banh Da Ca – noodles from Hai Phuong with breaded fish

Xoi Thit Hon – sticky rice with pork ribs

Tom Rang – pork and prawns wok-tossed with fish sauce until the prawn shell is crunchy


Favourite produce market in Vietnam?

Chau Long in Hanoi. The produce at the market is extremely fresh. Many local restaurants and hotels shop at this market, so the stock moves through very quickly. There is no refrigeration or hot running water, but there is no odour. Which is a sign of how fresh everything is and how hard the ladies work at keeping it clean. 

Ingredients can’t live without:

fish sauce

5 Vietnamese ingredients you couldn't live without?

Fish sauce

The most unusual or challenging food you’ve encountered in Vietnam?

I’m not squirmish about food. I love the way the Vietnamese will use the entire animal, no wastage. Many people can find this confronting, but it really is just being sensible and as a chef, the offal are always the best bits to work with.

Trung vit long (fertilized duck egg) is perhaps the most challenging for people. It’s hard boiled and taken with ginger, chilli and hot mint. If you look at it for too long it can be a bit off putting. But at Hanoi Cooking Centre I now eat it very regularly, particularly in winter when we have a hot pot. It tastes like very rich egg yolk and pate.

Tips for selecting street food in Vietnam?

I find food on the street is safer and better than in the restaurants. They’ve got 20 years’ experience and cook the same thing over and over again. At the pho place over the road, she knows what stage the stock is at just by smell and they turn out 300 bowls a day. Restaurants with huge menus make me nervous: somewhere offering 100 dishes covering Western, Vietnamese and Indian food … the ingredients can’t be fresh and they won’t know how to prepare them all.

When selecting street food, select somewhere that is full of locals. 

Eat only at the times the locals eat. 

Look at the work station to see if it’s clean.