Sydney has embraced reinterpreted Thai, up-market Korean and Chinese fusion. But modern Vietnamese food hasn’t received quite the same treatment (except for the notable exception of Luke Nguyen’s restaurant, Red Lantern). Mama Linh’s, Sydney’s newest food truck, hopes to kick start the revolution with a creative take on traditional Vietnamese.
“Vietnamese food is not just $9 bowls of pho,” says chef and co-owner, Peter Wu. Wu and partner Catherine Le Tran’s proudest experiment is a triple-pho-flavoured bánh mì – beef slow cooked in a pho reduction, pho gravy and pho mayonnaise combined with all the regular pho trimmings. It’s messy, robust and instantly reminiscent of rainy Marrickville nights.
Wu’s impressive, pho-inspired dish is one of four flavours that can come in bánh mì form, in a vermicelli salad, or packed into rice paper rolls. The range and number of flavours will increase in the future, but slow-cooked shiitake mushrooms with pickled carrot and lemongrass pork, a take on bun thit nuong (a cold rice vermicelli noodle dish), will likely stay as a headliner. At $10 a roll it will seem pricey for those used to prowling Marrickville and Haymarket restaurants, but after trying it, it’ll quickly seem reasonable.
The other half of the menu features Wu’s daily whims and specials from partner restaurant Vui Va Say. It could be deep-fried boneless chicken wings stuffed with minced pork and topped with basil sauce; roast pork knuckle with sticky rice and onion puree; or a cup of Wu’s mum’s pho. What exactly will depend on the weather and whatever Wu’s latest experiments are.
Wu hopes to expand to introduce grilled meat skewers, a battered fish salad with preserved cumquat salsa and his own version of a scotch egg, Vietnamese style. “I wanna encase the entire duck egg in nem nuong (sweet minced pork), batter it and then deep or gently fry it.”
The name of the food truck and all its recipes are inspired by Wu’s mum, who since arriving in Australia has worked every day of her life making Vietnamese food. “I wanted people to know about the hardships she’s endured to stay in business in Australia. I want people to taste her food. At the same time, I wanted to create something new.”