In optical fibres, weak modulations can grow at the expense of a strong pump to form a triangular comb of sideband pairs, until the process is reversed. Repeated cycles of such conversion and back-conversion constitute a manifestation of the universal nonlinear phenomenon known as Fermi-Pasta-Ulam recurrence. However, it remains a major challenge to observe the coexistence of different types of recurrences owing to the spontaneous symmetry-breaking nature of such a phenomenon. Here, we implement a novel non-destructive technique that allows the evolution in amplitude and phase of frequency modes to be reconstructed via post-processing of the fibre backscattered light. We clearly observe how control of the input modulation seed results in different recursive behaviours emerging from the phase-space structure dictated by the spontaneously broken symmetry. The proposed technique is an important tool to characterize other mixing processes and new regimes of rogue-wave formation and wave turbulence in fibre optics.