At Home with Peter Wu

Peter Wu’s  food truck, Mama Linh’s brought the excitement back to Sydney’s obsession with Vietnamese cuisine. Now Peter has teamed up with the real Mama Linh to bring Glebe Hem Nine Nine, which re-imagines traditional dishes in a casual dining setting.

What are your memories of growing up in Marrickville?
Mum and I first arrived in Australia back in 1988 and made Marrickville home as my grandmother had already settled there. Her first kitchen job there eventually led to her owning her first restaurant in Marrickville. I remember coming home from primary school to help out at the restaurant by clearing tables and bringing customers their bill.

I remember being sent up to Marrickville Woolworths and pushing a trolley full of Coke and Sprite when soft drinks were on sale, since I was eight years old, I absolutely hated doing it! I have many fond memories of Marrickville and that is where I will always feel a strong connection to.

What is the dynamic between you and your mum professionally?
I haven’t lived at home since my teens. So having to be in a small kitchen with mum twelve hours per day, six days per week can be very challenging at times. Mum is an old school restaurant matriarch and does things really old fashioned. Ultimately she is very proud of what we have achieved together. Customer feedback has been so amazingly positive and we’re all learning so much more in the never-ending culinary world. That being said, we do have our dramas in the kitchen every now and then. She is my mum after all, so when I do something wrong I get yelled at. When she does something wrong, I keep my mouth shut.

Did you always want to be a chef?
No. I actually just always wanted to own my own business of some sort. I was in sales for over ten years and after being burnt out from that gruelling industry, I wanted something a little different. I actually opened another Vietnamese bar in Newtown in 2013 with a similar concept as Hem Nine Nine. I had a friend who I hired as the chef, who due to some misunderstandings quit on me and didn’t give me a chance to find a replacement.

I immediately phoned my mum for tips and recipes and basically got taught how to cook over the phone. It was very chaotic in the beginning but when I finally got things under control and things were back on track, I started to realise I was enjoying all aspects of being in the kitchen.

What do you enjoy eating when you are not at work?
Steak and watermelon. I can never go past a really good piece of steak and I pretty much eat watermelon every day! A friend of ours recently recommended I try watermelon with vanilla ice cream! Mind blown! But I do love a really good bowl of ramen too. I’m all about soups. And watermelon.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

• 3 large chicken breast fillets
• 1/4 white cabbage
• 1/4 purple cabbage
• 1/2 iceberg lettuce
• 2 large carrots
• 1 cup mint leaves
• 1 cup perilla leaves
• 1/2 cup fresh coriander
• 1/4 cup fried shallots
• 1/2 kg chicken bones/frames

For the Dressing:
• 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
• 1/4 cup fish sauce
• 2 tbsp white vinegar
• 1/2 tbsp pickled minced chilli
• 2 tbsp white sugar
• 1/3 cup water

1. Shred cabbages, grate carrots and chop herbs. Place chicken breast and bones in pot of water and boil. The chicken is done when the meat slides easily of a fork.
2. Remove chicken breast and while meat is still hot, shred the chicken using 2 forks and place aside to cool.
3. Mix dressing ingredients, whisk until sugar dissolves.
4. In a large salad bowl, combine all the ingredients and slowly add dressing and toss through.
5. Garnish with the fresh coriander and fried shallots and enjoy!