Excerpt from: Kellie Maloney, "Madame Nhu: Innovative Vietnamese comfort food steeped in family and tradition", Cultural Pulse, 14/8/20:
Named after chef-founder Nhu, and as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the controversial Vietnamese political figure often referred to as the “dragon-lady”, Madame Nhu has restaurants in Surry Hills, Chatswood, and Hornsby.
The shining star of the restaurant is undoubtedly the slow-cooked pho noodle soups, created and developed by Chef Nhu herself, which have become a legend to regular Madame Nhu customers and the Sydney-Vietnamese community.
Madame Nhu stands as a reminder that food is “the basis of celebration, of culture, and of getting people together”.
The reaction of the Vietnamese-Australian community to Madame Nhu has always been remarkably positive, particularly among Vietnamese students and expats who often return to Vietnam with these Westernised-Vietnam dishes, creating what is a two-way exchange between the cultures.
Minh [Nguyen, Co-owner] says this idea of evolving and changing Vietnamese food has only been relevant to Sydney in the last decade or so but has not been without criticism and resistance from the public.
“The criticisms we used to get was that it was nice, but it was not authentic and traditional,” Minh explained.
“They completely missed the point, food that is not authentic is food that remains the same… Vietnamese food is meant to be evolving.”
Madame Nhu is a testament to Vietnamese-Australian food, representing what it means to be an immigrant in Australia.
The team behind Madame Nhu want this to come across in their cooking and in the experiences of each of their diners, whether it be through reminding Vietnamese-Australians of their unique heritage or inviting others to research and explore Vietnam for themselves.
“If the food can bring comfort and remind us what is important, then we have achieved what we want to achieve,” Minh said.