Childhood friends Ngorty Chea and Siv Kheng Phou have a few things in common. Not only did they grow up in Cabramatta, but both of their families are from South China in the Chaozhou and Hainan provinces, as well as Thailand and Cambodia.
Because of their cultural similarities, it has been tradition to have slow-cooked soup with every meal.
"Soup is a staple for every Chinese family."
"Different households have their own version. But soup is a staple for every Chinese family; it's deeply rooted in our culture," Phou tells SBS, while recalling traditional soups they grew up eating such as bitter melon, lotus root and braised beef.
The pair, recognising just how significant and versatile this tradition is, decided to share their own soup versions at Mama Tang.
"We want to shine a light on where we came from and share our childhood with the local community we grew up in," Chea says.
Mama Tang, which translates to mama's soup from Teochew, offers four different broth bases – spicy mama, grandma's vegetables, mama's braised beef and sour nana – all of which are cooked overnight. Chea says "that's when the flavour comes out".
"We've used Southeast Asian flavours, so it's not traditional like northern China, which is known for its Sichuan flavours. At Mama Tang, we want to be able to produce flavours that are more versatile."
While spicy mama, which is Mama Tang's take on the spicy Sichuan broth, is the most popular, Chea says his pick is mama's braised beef because it's based on his family's recipe.
"Mama's braised beef is my mum's recipe. It's a dish inspired from the Canton province that traditionally uses lamb," he says.
"The reason why she cooked this dish really well was because my grandfather loved it. My mum wanted to impress him as a daughter-in-law traditionally does… I wanted to adapt it so it's more palatable as I find lamb flavour can be overpowering."
"We've used our family techniques to create this base that's bright and refreshing."
Phou's choice is the sour nana, which draws inspiration from the sour broths that originate from Southeast Asia, such as tom yum from Thailand and canh chua from Vietnam.
"We've used our family techniques to create this base that's bright and refreshing," Phou says.
There's also a large selection of ingredients that go into the broth. There are different types of noodles, meat, seafood, offal and vegetables, as well as a range of sauces that can either be used in the broth or as a dipping sauce.
The pair explains the concept is similar to how people would enjoy hotpot. "When we were kids our families would have hotpot around the table and you get to dip into the broth exactly what you want.
"And that's what you can do here. You choose the ingredients you want and choose the broth based on what you feel like," Chea says.
10/117 John Street (entry via Hill Street), Cabramatta
These easy fish cakes, served with the fresh cucumber salad, make for a light, healthy dinner.
The dressing for this Cambodian beef salad is a delicate balance of garlic, sugar, fish sauce and lemon juice. If you like heat, add some sliced chilli to the mix.