As a fourth generation Malaysian, Tracy was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, where her Chinese great-grandparents settled in 1930. After 23 years in Malaysia, Tracy spent more than 5 years honing her cooking skills in Australia before bringing them to San Francisco’s Sunset neighborhood. Like her great-grandparents, she has spent much of her life living abroad, recreating foods and flavors she grew up with and misses from home.
Tracy started cooking and hosting Malaysian dinner parties with Feastly because of requests she received (and still does) from curious followers on her Instagram, where she curates and posts photos of her culinary creations and food adventures.
When asked about her cooking style and inspiration, she told us, “I don’t cook a dish the same way every time. Home cooking is about improvising and trusting your palate to find the right balance.”
“I never use the word ‘authentic’ because Malaysian food is multicultural,” she explained, “so every cook has a different recipe for the same dish, depending on their regional and ethnicity influences. I just try to make dishes that taste like home.”
Read our one-on-one with this world traveler and Feastly cook.
1. What is food to you?
Food is my identity and personality. What and how a person eats says a lot about who they are.
2. How and when did cooking come into your life?
Mostly from observing my mother in the kitchen and taking mental notes. I wasn’t really allowed to help her since boiling over a pot of soup once when I was about 10, so there was a lot of trial and error when I finally got to put theory into practice. I really started cooking in 2005, when I went to Australia as an exchange student and couldn’t afford to eat out.
3. Who is your food role model?
My mother and Jackie M. (http://jackiem.com.au/about/), both straightforward cooks who just want to serve honest good food.
4. What do you love about hosting with Feastly?
Being able to introduce the lesser-known Malaysian cuisine to the Bay Area and meeting the most inspiring people. I love that my guests don’t come to me expecting a commercial restaurant experience. I don’t call myself a chef, rather, a home cook or a host. They are not customers but instead, my special guests, who want to share meals with strangers, ask questions, hear my story and learn the origins of my dishes. After hosting hundreds of Feasters, I actually remember most of them by name or by face and which meal(s) they had. We bump into each other at other Feastly events sometimes, it’s a wonderful community to be a part of.
5. What are your cooking goals/dreams right now? And in the long run?
Right now I am planning to cook and host Feastly-type events in Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Maybe I will start my own line of Malaysian cooking sauces and spice pastes in the long run.
6. Favorite meal/feast you’re ever had?
In 2013, I went on a rare road trip with my family and we drove 8 hours to Penang, the food capital of Malaysia where we spent most of our time eating the best street foods. It had been a long time since we went on a vacation together so it was very special and everything we ate tasted extra good because of the company.
7. What’s your most memorable moment hosting strangers at a dinner party?
Once I underestimated the complexity of a brand new menu and had multiple kitchen disasters, but the guests were very understanding and supportive the whole time.
8. What’s the one thing you always keep in your fridge?
Eggs, fresh or preserved.
9. What is the go-to dish you make for yourself when home alone?
I just make green juice and eat clear soup when I am by myself. It’s my rare opportunity to do a cleanse.
10. Weapon of Choice (in the kitchen)?
My giant wok shovel/ spatula. It cuts, scrapes and of course shovels my stir-fries.
11. You’re stranded on a desert island. You can only have one ingredient, but unlimited amounts of it. What is it?
C.O.C.O.N.U.T. , every part of the plant is useful.
12. A fun food fact:
Urchin or uni “roe” is really the creature’s gonads.
13. What’s the cheesiest food pun:
I donut count calories.
14. Like the Sriracha craze of 2014, what’s a food trend that you’ve heard of lately?
Sous vide everything.