As a native Angelino and avid longtime surfer, Chris has many fond memories of surf trips to Baja where he would eat fish tacos from roadside stands and his favorite beachside cantinas. Unfortunately, Chris’s move to the Hoosier State has precluded weekend jaunts south of the border. Bummer.
In order to win Chris’s heart, I have spent years perfecting the art of preparing Baja-style fish tacos (sans authentic atmosphere). Hopefully my efforts more closely resemble the tacos from the cantinas than those from the roadside stands.
There are several important components to this dish, the guac, the pico de gallo, the seasoning on the fish, the taco shell, the cabbage, and the hot sauce.
First, the guac. You need a fairly ripe avocado or you will have a heck of a time mashing it. It then needs the right balance of cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and lime juice. If we weren’t cooking within the parameters of Duke’s House Budget, we would also add some diced jalapeño. If we weren’t cooking for Chris who hates raw tomatoes, we would add some finely chopped grape tomatoes.
Next the pico de gallo. Ours is just finely chopped onion, preferably the white or red variety, and fresh cilantro.
On to the fish. Nearly any type of mild flavored, crumbly fish will work, at Duke’s House we use whatever is on sale. This week tilapia was 4 lbs. for $9, so tilapia it is. Pollack, haddock, grouper, and flounder also work. Use your imagination. We usually season the fish with lemon juice, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. This isn’t fine fish, the point is to make sure that you don’t taste it.
The taco shell must be a soft corn tortilla! Nearly the entire Hoosier state is staring wide-eyed at that last sentence. A whaaa? That’s right. No crunchy taco shells, or at least not the yellow U-shaped ones that you are thinking of. Not a four tortilla, not even if it is whole wheat. I’m talking about the 6″ corn tortillas that come bagged in stacks of 84. Don’t worry, I am pretty sure that they will stay fresh for a year or more in your refrigerator, not that they will last that long anyway. After you try these, you will be going through corn tortillas like nobody’s business!
Lastly, the hot sauce. We have quite a hot sauce collection at our house: Tabasco, Sriracha, Frank’s Ret Hot, Cholula, we may even have some El Yucateco hidden in the back of the pantry, but at Duke’s House we only use Tapatio for fish tacos.
The cabbage is pretty self explanitory. We usually buy ours pre-shredded because we’re lazy very hungry and short on time when we get home from work. Chopping it up from a head of cabbage would be great as well.
We generally make up all of the individual components of this dish, warm up the tortillas, and assemble the tacos as we go. Note, if you do not warm up the tortillas, they will break and you will be wearing your dinner.
Fish Taco Fish:
6-8 ounces of crumbly, mild tasting, light colored fish
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Combine fish, lemon juice, and spices in a foil packet.
Grill over a medium heat until fish is flaky and cooked through.