It seems 99 Glebe Point Road is the place to permanently park your food truck. Cantina Mobile vacated the shopfront last year, and now Mama Linh’s mother-and-son food-truck team, Xiao Linh Meng and Peter Wu, have opened Hem Nine Nine.
“Hem means laneway, and that’s where you find the best Vietnamese food,” says Wu of the name and its significance. “[It’s] where the locals cook for the locals, experimenting with ingredients.” Wu fell in love with the long, thin space that recalls a laneway and says, “It’s perfect for the permanent kitchen for the [two Mama Linh’s] food trucks, too.”
It’s a chance for Wu and Mama Linh to develop their Vietnamese dishes beyond what’s possible from the food trucks. “The menu is very different … [it still uses] traditional flavours and recipes from Mama Linh, but we’re bringing her recipes to the next level,” says Wu. “Mum’s old school, but when she saw how the trucks were received, her mind was opened to what we could do.”
Dishes include fresh minced salmon tartare with pickled leek and chive mayonnaise, served in crisp noodle nets and finished with deep-fried salmon skin.
The hero is Mama’s 18-hour beef-pho master stock. It’s used, for example, in a roasted-marrow dish: the marrow is brined in pho reduction, roasted to order and served with crunchy baguette, bean sprouts and pickled Spanish-onion salad. “They’re things you’d find in the pho soup, but deconstructed. Close your eyes and it’s like eating pho.”
Hem Nine Nine also has its own version of pho soup. “I was eating mum’s pho and some of our marrow fell in, creating this amazing new texture!” says Wu, laughing. “It was richer and creamier. It’s one of my favourites and it’s our special.”