Chef Jimmy Shu is a renowned Chinese Sri Lankan Territorian who took part in an 8 tv series on a culinary journey to the multicultural melting pot that is Darwin. Jimmy talks to Gman from his homeland, the Territory and his passion “Cooking”. also what the most underrated native Australian food is... I know this one sounds a little grotesque, but the best thing was the brains of the magpie goose. It was just cooked over some charcoal with no seasoning but after it was cooked the chef scooped a little bit out with a twig to eat – it’s like an amazing French pate.
Once you taste it and have it – wow – I think it’s the caviar of the region.
Jimmy explored an incredibly diverse food scene, unlike any other in Australia through the sights, smells, breathtaking landscapes and stories of the Top End's most celebrated and hidden foodies. I have to say to everybody I’m not a spring chicken, I just turned 71 and I’m still batting. I guess there’s a lot to do if there’s passion there. I’m a bit of a mixed bag – both my parents are from Shandong province. Dad migrated to Sri Lanka of all places. He entered as a silk peddler selling silk on a bicycle and eventually opened a restaurant. I later met a girl who decided to come to Australia, and we got engaged. She wanted to settle her parents here then come back to Sri Lanka, but she took a bit longer and I eventually followed her. This was 49 years ago.
Eventually, I joined a group of friends and started a vegetarian restaurant called Shakahari in Melbourne. It was voted best vegetarian for 15 or 16 consecutive years. From there I opened more restaurants, and now in total I’ve opened 13 restaurants. 2 in Malaysia and 11 in Australia. Today with a lot of Asian migrants there’s a lot of competition so it’s difficult, but I’ve always maintained my passion. I love cooking, I love serving people and I say I love putting a smile on everyone’s tummy. This show came out of the blue. I travel a lot constantly looking for new things. I had a call from the series producer, Naina Sen, who I didn’t know at the time, but perhaps she had done some research. She gave me a call and said ‘would you like to do a show?’, and I’ve always admired people like Luke Nguyen, and I thought ‘I’m just a kid from Sri Lanka’. Imagine a kid from some bush place plonked into Hollywood with all the bright lights. I thought ‘wow my gosh, I’m nearly retired’.
My favourite part of the show is taking family and friends to my second home, the Rapid Creek Markets. All my friends who visit ask to go to the Rapid Creek Markets. The amazing thing is that I get to talk to the growers themselves and they’ve got some really good stories. Most of them have hardships and come from a tough background but have contributed hugely to the food scene in Darwin. Equally best was the traveling and meeting some amazing Indigenous Australians.
Barramundi is perfectly paired with tropical ingredients in this fragrant coconut cream curry. A traditional South Indian dish, it is also cooked in Sri Lanka, where it is known as ‘kiri maalu’, or ‘milk fish’.
Ingredients 600 gbarramundi fillets, skin removed, cut into cubes 2 tbspvegetable oil 180 gsliced red onion 2 stickslemongrass, bruised 3red bird’s eye chillies, bruised 25fresh curry leaves, plus more to garnish (optional) 15 gsliced ginger 200 gfresh tomatoes, cut into wedges 600 mlcoconut cream 1 tsppowdered turmeric 1 tspsalt 1 tspsugar Steamed basmati rice, to serve
Cook's notes Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Instructions 1. Season the fish with a little salt and set aside. Heat oil in a large saucepan and stir-fry the onion, lemongrass, chillies, curry leaves and ginger over a medium heat, until the onions are soft. Add the tomato and cook for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the coconut cream and turmeric. Bring to the boil and lower the heat. If the mixture is too thick, thin with a little water. Add salt and sugar, then taste to check the seasoning.
3. Gently add the fish pieces and poach in the coconut broth for just 6 minutes, until cooked through. Garnish with fresh curry leaves and serve immediately with basmati rice.
•To ensure the best flavour, smell dry spices before using to make sure they are fragrant.
Explore a Taste of the Territory with Jimmy Shu on SBS Food and On Demand.