In 2010 when I was in Hanoi on a press trip, I met Tracey
Lister, an Australian expat with active passion about Vietnamese food. She’d
been living in Vietnam’s capitol for many years, exploring the food scene then
writing about it as well as running the
Hanoi Cooking Centre, a terrific place to take classes. She has a quiet
curiosity about food and is highly observant – traits that she poured into her
latest book, Vietnamese Street Food.
She authored the charming book with her husband, Andreas
Pohl. The location photography gives a true sense being in Vietnam. It’s a book
that anyone who’s traveled to Vietnam should have, not just as a keepsake but
to cook from. It’s also terrific for armchair travelers and cooks. Many people
are interested in street food nowadays so I asked Tracey to share her thoughts
and expert advice on what to eat in Hanoi.
restaurateur once remarked to me, " Vietnam doesn't
really have a restaurant culture." How do you agree or disagree with that
I don’t think Vietnam has
a strong fine dining culture in the Western sense, although that is growing in
line with the economy.
There is, however, has a long
history of people eating out. Historically, restaurants started to appear as
part of the Chinese trading communities in the early 19th century with eating
places initially serving mainly Cantonese dishes. The Chinese restaurants were
subsequently joined by French establishments. These two influences together
with the local village banquet tradition morphed over time into the uniquely
Vietnamese restaurant scene we enjoy today.
On a typical day in Hanoi ,
how many times do you eat on the street? What are your favorite street foods
At the Cooking Centre we have a chef who produces a delicious staff meal for
lunch, so it’s a bit hard to resist that. But on a weekly basis I imagine half
a dozen times. A Saturday lunch favorite is Bún Chả with Andreas and Franka at
a stall close to where we live.
I never tire of the
classics Phở Bò and Phở Gà [beef and chicken pho], but am enjoying Bánh Đa Cá
[fish noodle soup]. I just love the chewiness of the Hải Phòng noodles and the
soft fish together. Also, Bánh Tôm Hồ Tây [fried shrimp and sweet potato cakes]
and a Bia Hà Nội [Ha Noi brand beer] on a Sunday afternoon are a winner.
For people traveling to Hanoi for
the first time, what street foods should be on their hit list?
- Bún Chả, Phở (of course)
- Bún Ốc, noodles and snails with turmeric green
banana and tofu
- Trứng Ngải cứu, Omlette with a bitter herb,
chilli/lime salt on the side
- Bánh Cuốn, Steamed rice pancake with pork and
mushrooms. Try a little Cà Cuống (water bug) essence in the sauce. It has a
distinct green apple perfume.
- If visiting in winter, Lẩu (steamboat) on Trúc Bạch Lake.
If I were a beginner cook, what three recipes in Vietnamese
Street Food should I tackle first? Why?
- Barbecue pork ribs (page 56). Everyone loves a
BBQ It's an easy recipe with accessible ingredients, which can be prepared in
- Sticky rice steamed in lotus leaf (page 92) makes
for a dramatic centre piece on the dinner table.
- Black sesame seed and peanut soup (page 179) for
dessert. It's comfort food and looks fabulous. We just don’t have enough black
If you had to move away from Hanoi ,
what street foods would you miss the most?
I have had good Phở
outside of Vietnam,
but never a good Bún Chả, so probably that. Maybe there is an opening there for
I’d purchased Vietnamese Street Food last year from Kitchen
Arts and Letters in New York and prepared a fun faux crab and rice noodle soup
(bun rieu chay). At that time, the book was a pricey foreign import. This year, the publisher is releasing it in the United States, and I received
a copy to give away to a lucky winner! If you don't win, the book is a steal at this price.
the giveaway lowdown:
Prize: 1 copy of Vietnamese Street Food
is eligible to enter: Anyone with a United States mailing address.
to enter: Simply
leave a comment on this post. What’s your
favorite Vietnamese street food? Or, what’s your favorite Viet snack food? Include
your email address so that I can contact you directly if you
you enter more than once? Yes, if you’re a fan of the VWK
Facebook page, follow me on Twitter or have joined me on Pinterest,
you can enter an extra time for each of those social media networks. If we’re
buddies on all three, then shoot, you can enter 4 times. If you’re doing
multiple entries, let me know who you are by including something like [FB],
[Twitter], or [Pinterest] in your comment.
to enter: Monday,
March 25, noon (PST)
notification, and claiming the tickets: The winner will be randomly selected via Random.org
and notified by email. The winner will be announced next Tuesday, March 26.
I’ll send the winner the book. If you’d like more details, read the official giveaway rules.
- Safe eating tips for traveling in Vietnam
- Faux crab noodle soup plus tofu coagulating video tip (recipe is from Vietnamese Street Food)