Behind the dish: Uday Huja’s Crab Cake

Making an iconic dish is no easy feat. Nineteen at The Star Gold Coast’s Uday Huja shares how he put together his most popular item on the menu.

It’s hard to define what makes a dish iconic. Some people say it’s a dish that they’ll come back for. Some say it’s the amount of times the dish is ordered. Others will claim it has to look as pretty as it tastes. However you choose to define an iconic dish, one thing you can put your money on is that it is going to be mouth-watering delicious. 

Uday Huja’s most recognised dish at Nineteen at The Star, the Crab Cake, applies to all of the above. Not only is it the restaurants top selling dish – they plate up around 200 a month – one that diners come back for, it’s a beautiful as it is delicious. But this fancy looking dish has humble beginnings.

“This Crab Cake dish is one I developed from a recipe I learned while I was working as a young chef in Charleston, South Carolina,” says Huja. “Here crab cake is king and recognised as one of the most traditional dishes of the region.” One of the true Southern touches of this dish is that the fresh Blue Swimmer Crab is paired with a sweet creamed corn which plays off the sweetness of the crab. “The addition of the sauce is made of fresh tomatoes adding some acidity that cuts through the richness of the crab,” says Huja.

Traditionally, a crab cake is similar to a fishcake that is popular throughout the US. For those who are not familiar with either, in layman’s terms a fish or crab cake consists of fileted or fish or another type of seafood that is minced or ground. Commonly mixed with flour and eggs, the fish or seafood is then shaped into a flattened meatball, battered and breaded and shallow fried in a pan. 

Huja’s take on the dish is a little more refined than this. Nineteen at The Star’s Crab Cake is made from carefully folded Blue Swimmer Crab, fresh tarragon with sweet red capsicum, shallots, preserved lemon and a few other secret ingredients. The cake is then pan seared in brown butter to enhance the rich flavour of the crab and allowing the crisp crust to be formed. Another element of the dish that gets diners excited is the amount of crab in the dish. A wonderful showcase of the fresh local ingredients often taken advantage of at Nineteen at The Star. “One of the elements that makes it a wonderful experience is the fact it is made up of so much crab meat and not fillers and breading,” says Huja. “You get big chunks of sweet crab and fresh flavours of tarragon, which is a match made in heaven for the crab.”