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The Southeast of the North

The Territory is celebrated as a melting pot of culture, brimming with diverse flavours thanks to our vibrant multicultural community. We’ve benefited from our proximity to Southeast Asia for centuries, and these days, Asian flavours are a firm fixture at our markets, on our tables and on our taste buds. And if there's one word to cause cravings for cuisine inspired by the lands to our north, it’s Hanuman.

By Tierney Seccull

Respected chef, and much-loved Territory treasure, Jimmy Shu, cracked open the doors to his award-winning restaurant in 1992, the tropical Darwin eatery created to share the flavours of India, Thailand, and Shu’s home, Sri Lanka. Living in Melbourne with his young family at the time, and already running three restaurants, the early days were nothing short of a challenge. One he was up for.

"I’m someone who loves challenges. I came here looking for the Silver Barramundi, and I found it,” he smiles.

“I was introduced to Christo, a restaurateur who was an icon at the time … I dined at his place, and after a lovely meal of chilli bugs, he said ‘Jimmy, I’d like you to consider bringing your brand of restaurant here’. I told him I needed one day … Then came back the next day, shook Christo’s hand and said, ‘we’re on’. From there, I’ve never looked back.”

Shu admits the first two-and-a-half years were a struggle. The restaurant was losing money, and he was away from his young family for up to three months at a time, his heart strings pulled tight as he left his sleeping babies in the night to return to Darwin. Thankfully, the Shu family’s sacrifice wasn’t for nothing.

Hanuman became a raging success, spawning nine more restaurants in Australia and overseas, creating thousands of jobs over the years. In 2001, Alice Springs got their own gem in the desert dishing out exceptional Asian cuisine. Three decades later, a dine-in or takeaway order at Hanuman remains a solid life choice, and a rite of passage for Territorians to treat visitors to a feast.

Passionate about flavour, Shu had us on the fang for Territory tucker during the initial global lockdown, as Jimmy Shu's Taste of the Territory by local filmmaker Naina Sen aired on our TV sets. The eight-part SBS Food series showcased the vibrant flavours, friendly characters and unique stories of the NT, paying special homage to our local markets. The experience moved Shu to tears, who recalls time he spent with an Indigenous ranger on a boat on Jawoyn Country in the Katherine Gorge.

“That was very emotional. He was talking about his Country, and witnessing it through his eyes moved me. It was magical,” he says.

It’s a firm belief of the celebrated chef that, to understand a culture, the best way is to go through the food.

“Once you appreciate the food, it’s an automatic response to appreciate that culture.”

His own culture is shared through the Hanuman menu, with authentic dishes from Malaysia, Thailand and India, showcasing local produce. Dine on soups, stir fries and curries – OTL recco is the meen moolie! – served with a side of roti bread, pad Thai or coconut jasmine rice. There's also a selection of wine, spirits and cocktails, and the dessert menu features signature dish, black rice brûlée – a family recipe created by Shu’s wife Selina, with pandan infused custard with black rice, mango crème fraiche and sesame meringue. Drool.

Looking back on an incredible career spanning over 50 years, the time has come for Shu to step back.

“I’ve now reached 74, it’s time to smell the roses, and I’m slowly, slowly loosening the strings. I’m proud to say I have some beautiful children, and my amazing wife has put up with 32 years of me being away from home. I just became a grandfather, too, so I’m entitled to say ‘guys, please excuse me, I’m going for a grandpa nap!’."

If you find yourself deciding what fare on which to feast, enjoy the sincere service, warm hospitality and bold flavour Hanuman is famed for, and embark on a tantalising trip to Southeast Asia, right here in the Territory.

WHEN WED-FRI, 12-2.30PM | MON-SUN, 6-10PM

Alice Springs
WHEN WED-FRI, 12-2.30PM | MON-SUN, 6-10PM


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