The Greatest Taco of Them All

“There’s something wrong with your blog,” a friend said to me one day.

“Oh yeah,” I replied with a raised eyebrow. “What’s that?”

“There are no fish tacos on there.”

Could it possibly be true? That of all the posts on my blog, and more specifically all the times I’d written about tacos, that I had overlooked the Baja fish taco??

Baja fish tacos

Baja fish tacos

“It’s true!” said friend who alerted me to the fact. “I looked through the entire site, no fish tacos.”

No fish tacos!

I may be biased based on geography, but the fish taco is the very best of all tacos. To the native Californian, fish tacos are practically a birth right. I remember driving to Ensenada in Baja California as a boy with my mom. Besides the bonding time with Mom, the highlight of the trip was always stopping at the first roadside fish taco stand we saw, and shelling out $0.50 a piece for a couple crispy fish tacos.

They are one of God’s most perfect foods: a firm filet of whitefish, fried crispy in a batter, served with cabbage, crema, salsa and a squeeze of lime. It’s as if Mexico’s fine lagers — Pacifico, Corona, Tecaté — were made for the very purpose of support act. The combination is bliss.

Donnie and our fisherman, Mario, catching our own damned fish for the tacos --Puerto Vallarta, 2014

Donnie Schneider and our fisherman, Mario, catching our own damned fish for the tacos –Puerto Vallarta, 2014

I remember being in Puerto Vallarta once with my pal Gary. Walking into town, I spotted a grimy stand and smelled oil. We approached. Sure enough, they were frying fish tacos. “I’ll take dos!” I said cheerfully, turning to Gary to see what he wanted.

“I’m not eating that,” he said.

He pointed out several deterrents — the aforementioned grime, flowing out from the hands of the cooks across every cooking surface and onto the laborers who sat on stools around the perimeter; the bottle of crema baking in the tropical sun. The flies.

I didn’t care, such was my determination. And I was rewarded with the best fish taco I’d had yet — and one which, much to Gary’s dismay, I returned to each time we ventured into town.

Waiting patiently for my fish taco on the beach in Mazatlan.

Waiting patiently for my fish taco on the beach in Mazatlan.

What makes the fish taco the greatest taco of them all? It’s a combination of things — of course, the crispy deep fried fish fillet doesn’t hurt. But pair that with the rustic toothsomeness of the corn tortilla, the freshness of the cabbage and lime, a slight richness from the crema, and a spicy acidic kick from the salsa, and you’ve got one of those perfect storms of deliciousness.

Especially when paired with a cold Mexican lager.

I apologize to the friend who discovered this hideous omission — and I also apologize to you, dear reader. This was a failure on my part, and one I should have recognized earlier.

Now, by way of repentance, I will go cook myself several fish tacos and open a cold beer so that I can upload photos and delay the publishing of this post not a minute longer.

*    *    *

Baja fish tacos
serves 4, two tacos each

2 lbs. whitefish fillets (red snapper, cod, halibut, etc.), cut into strips
1 Mexican lager
1/2 cup flour, plus 1/4 cup
1 cup vegetable oil
8 small corn tortillas
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/4 cup thinly slivered white onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup milk
red salsa
salt to taste

Mix together yogurt, mayo and milk to create a Mexican crema.

Mix together 1/2 cup flour with about 1/2 to 2/3 of the beer (drink the rest) until you have a thick but not doughy batter.

Heat oil over medium-high in a wok or other wide-sided pan until a drop of batter sizzles when dropped in. Dust fillet strips with remaining 1/4 cup of flour, dip into batter, and fry a few at a time, turning once, until golden and crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain, then place on a rack in a 180-degree oven while you cook remaining fish. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

Toss together cabbage, onion and cilantro.

When all fish has been cooked, heat a griddle or large skillet on high, and toast the tortillas 10 or 15 seconds per side. Stack and wrap in a dishtowel to keep warm.

Make your tacos: In each tortilla, place a strip (or two, depending on size) of the fish. Top with shredded cabbage mix, a squeeze of lime, some crema and salsa to taste. Serve with cold Mexican lager.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. glennis
    Oct 16, 2015 @ 03:08:58

    Down here in New Orleans, we are learning that every little corner store is a master at frying seafood. They’re not so good with the tortillas, but a fried catfish po-boy is a wonderful thing.


  2. Trackback: Year of the Taco | skinny girls & mayonnaise
  3. Trackback: Tacos, Foiled! | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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