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Taste of the Territory

Being encouraged to stay at home when possible during the pandemic meant we turned to our tellies more than usual for both entertainment and a sense of connectedness.

And once we’d had our fill of crazy rich Americans with tigers, it was Naina Sen’s ode to the Territory hosted by Jimmy Shu that captured our attention. And our hearts. We caught up with Naina to chat about her gorgeous eight-part series, Taste of the Territory.

Congratulations on your show! What inspired you to make Taste of the Territory?

Thank you! SBS Food and Screen Territory put a call-out for NT filmmakers to pitch an eight-part food series. For me, I come from a culture obsessed with food. Growing up in India, you’re literally eating one meal while you’re discussing your next meal [laughs].

I think food is such an incredible metaphor for storytelling – it’s a way to communicate history and culture, and the complexities of identity, but in a really universal and accessible way. And I thought it would be the perfect vehicle to explore the multicultural tapestry of the Top End, but in a really immersive, kind of ‘insider’ way that audiences have never had access to before.

What was your favourite part about filming the series?

There are so many intangible, visceral things that make this part of the world so unique and these are things that you can only really feel if you live here, so when people who are from the NT say that the series has captured this essence and it makes them feel proud watching the show, that’s a really special feeling. The series is an anthology and unapologetic love letter to the Top End, and it reaffirms our sense of place – and this sense of place comes from people.

Confession – we’ve been hitting the markets harder than ever since watching your show… We’ve tried dishes we didn’t know existed!

Well, this is the thing, it’s sharing the nooks and crannies! The show is a combination of places I have loved and eaten at and places Jimmy has loved, so the experience was the same for both of us. He’d introduce me to things I didn’t know existed, and I’d introduce him to things.

Darwin has been such a haven for so many people, who came here with nothing and started from scratch to build these extraordinary legacies of family, of food, and to have such a deep impact on what Top End and Darwin life is. Their food is their resilience – the most personal expression of who they are.

Jimmy Shu comes across as such a warm, beautiful character. What was he like to work with?

I have been such a fan of who he is – not just his culinary prowess – but of him as a person, and what he’s done for the Top End. He’s genuinely one of the most generous human beings you will ever come across.

For him to even take this on – this thing he’d never done before, as in presenting – is such a testament to his constant need to challenge himself and his pursuit of excellence. He worked so incredibly hard on the show.

Again, I’m so grateful for the absolute trust he had in me and the vision for the show. It’s been such an honour. We were emphatic that we were going to create something that was authentic and an expression of our deep love for this place.

Lastly – and this is a biggie – what’s your favourite dish in the NT?

Ah, that’s a really mean question to ask! [laughs] Look, if I were going to take you on a food tour, I’d take you to all of the places we went in the show. But I will say this – I think some of the best chefs in the region can be found at our weekend markets!

Taste of the Territory is available to stream online until the end of this month.


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