Restaurateur Jimmy Shu (right) and <i>MasterChef</i> contestant Lynton Tapp explore the Darwin's Rapid Creek Markets.
Jimmy Shu (right) and Lynton Tapp explore Darwin's Rapid Creek markets. Photo: Supplied

Mark Eggleton

Silver barramundi brought Jimmy Shu to Darwin in 1992 and he hasn't really left since. Back then, Shu was already one of the nation's most successful restaurateurs with three flourishing businesses in Melbourne but the draw of the top end's produce was too great.

"I was dropping off some fish at a Darwin seafood restaurant as a favour while there and I found out the restaurant was moving. The owner asked if I wanted to move in. Twenty-four hours later I decided I would."

Shu sold his Melbourne restaurants and opened Hanuman serving a mix of Thai, Indian and Nonya cuisine.

Hanuman restaurant strives to provide the 'three wow factors' - ambience, service and food.
Hanuman strives to provide three 'wow' factors - ambience, service and food. Photo: Supplied

As for the silver barramundi, Shu's search started and ended with local seafood legend Billy Boustead who has been farming the fish as well as mud crabs and prawns for decades.

"Billy farms the best barra in Australia. He feeds them on 'trash' fish. These are the fish trawler fishermen don't want. Billy freezes them fresh before thawing and mincing them for his barramundi. What's more his ponds are naturally flushed out with fresh saltwater twice a day, every day."

Shu says Boustead's barramundi is gorgeously flavoursome and is best served steamed although at Hanuman the fried fish on the menu replete with a pla sam rod sauce of fresh chilli, onions, ginger, garlic, curry, fish sauce and maltose sugar is hugely popular.

Fresh flavours: A fish dish at Hanuman.
Fresh flavours: A fish dish at Hanuman restaurant.

"Your palate reacts to all those flavours – the hit of chilli, sweet and salt."

Beyond the extraordinary seafood found in Darwin, Shu is always foraging for the freshest and best ingredients. He's a fixture at Darwin's Rapid Creek markets and is passionate about the tropical fruits and vegetables grown in the region.

"We can source all of our Asian greens and herbs directly from the growers locally - three types of basil (hot, sweet and lemon) as well as galangal, water spinach, ka chai (wild ginger) and kankun."

At Hanuman, Shu says the daily challenge is providing people with the three "wow" factors.

"Number one is ambience and we like to present a stylish, crisp and clean restaurant every day. Two is good, knowledgeable and efficient service, and three is the food - the flavours. From the first mouthful, food has to be filled with flavour. It has to have guts.

"You have the three wow factors and you can build a restaurant slowly and steadily."

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