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Making Fish Tacos


growpower
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Hi there:

I recently moved from CA to Tokyo, and have been going on serious fish taco withdrawal. My favorites are the ones with the batter fried fish, creamy spicy sauce and cabbage. So, this week I am going to take my first attempt at making baja fish tacos myself, and was wondering if you experts can give me some advice?

I thought the recipe below (found via the wonderful internet) sounded interesting. Does anyone know why the recipe suggests that the batter needs to rest for 3 hours? Other recipes I've seen say to use the batter up quickly. This point is important to me because I will be making a large batch of them for all my friends, and any work I can do ahead of time will be really helpful.

If you guys think this isn't a good recipe, or have other suggestions, please let me know.

Oh, I will be making corn tortillas also as my kind friends brought me a bag of masa, so if you have tips for that, please let me know too..

-thanks

*****************************************

This recipe will make about six largish tacos.

* 3/4 cup flour

* 1/2 tsp baking powder

* 1/2 tsp crushed oregano

* 1/2 tsp garlic powder

* 1/2 tsp chili powder

* 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

* salt & pepper as you like

* 1 egg yolk

* 4-6 oz beer

* oil for frying

* 1/2 cup mayonnaise

* 1 tbsp chopped cilantro

* 1/2 lime

* 1 ripe avocado

* 2 cups shredded cabbage

* 1 lb shark filet

* steamed tortillas

* Lime for squeezing

1. First get all the batter ingredients together. In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, spices, beer, and egg yolk. If the mixture is too think, feel free to add a bit more beer, but don't let it get watery. It should be plenty thick to coat the fish.

2. Now cover the batter and let it sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours. You can even let it sit overnight or through the work day. As a variation you can whip an egg white into a thick froth and fold that in just before you dip the fish. This will make a deeper, lighter batter. But I actually prefer it without, which happens to be less work. But whatever you like.

3. Okay. When you're ready to start cooking the fish, heat the oil (I use peanut oil) to 375 or so. Mix the mayo, cilantro, and enough lime juice to make it "saucy." Slice the avocado. Slice the cabbage paper thin. And cut the shark into portions that will fit well in a taco after you fry them.

4. Once the oil is hot, dip the shark in the batter and get it well coated. Cook one slice at a time. Drop a slice into the oil while the batter is still dripping off and fry it for about 4-5 minutes, turning half way through. While the fish is cooking, go ahead and steam the tortillas.

5. And you're done! Grab a steamed tortilla, add a piece of fish, a couple slices of avocado, sprinkle on some cabbage, add sauce to taste, and just before you eat it, squeeze on some lime juice. Rinse. Repeat.

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This recipe strikes me as being wildly profligate with its spices. I'd just stick to any traditional moderately thick beer batter and forget the chile powder, the oregano, the garlic, and the red pepper.

I'd also be leery of the sauce recipe. Rather than mix the lime into the mayonnaise, I'd squeeze the lime on the tacos at table. Thin the mayonnaise with a little milk, or preferably use Mexican crema rather than mayonnaise. You'll want to add a little salt. Rather than mix the cilantro into the sauce, I'd rough-chop it and serve it on the side too, the same way the cabbage is served.

A pound of shark filets will make far more than six tacos--even 'largish' tacos. You can, I think, count on twelve. For wonderful flavor, marinate the shark in lime juice and fresh garlic (sliced) before you batter it to fry.

The other things you'll want are a good red cooked salsa--the kind made with roasted tomatoes and chiles--for a topping, and some crunchy radishes to serve on the side.

Do you have a tortilla press? Be sure to put plastic (like a plastic produce bag from the grocery) on it before you put the ball of prepared masa down--and put another one on top of the masa. It's far easier to peel the plastic from the tortilla than it is to peel the tortilla away from the bare wood or metal of the press.

And if you make the tortillas ahead of time, puh-leeeeeeez don't steam them to reheat. Heat them on a griddle on top of the stove. Steaming, either in the oven or (god forbid) the microwave is a no-no here in Mexico--it's simply not done.

Edited by esperanza (log)

What's new at Mexico Cooks!?

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I'm with Esperanza. She makes some very good points and I particularly agree about the salsa tht she describes.

I lived in Tecate, BC, MX for two years and ate a ton of fish tacos on the docks in Ensenada and also in one particular Rubio's Outlet in Mission Beach (or PB-I get confused about where one ends and the other begins). Both were excellent (Rubio's is probably the best fast food chain, albeit small, in the US) and I got pretty good at imitating them.

I use redfish (red drum) or grouper for this recipe, but any flaky white fish will do. It is simple and very close to the real deal that you might get in extreme SOCAL or Northern Baja.

I have absolutely zero experience in manufacturing tortillas, so I can't help you there.

Rubio's Fish Tacos

Buenos Suerte

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Ditto on most of the points Mayhaw and Esperanza make.

You might try something really simple if you like a "creamy spicy sauce", like mixing adobo or Bufalo's chipotle sauce with crema, sour cream, or even creme fraiche, heavy cream, mayo and water, or yogurt, depending on what you can find in Tokyo.

For the corn tortillas, one thing people often don't do and I think they should, is let the masa rest after it's first hydrated. Hydrate it with tepid water, then let it rest in a covered bowl for 20 minutes or so, then add water until it's the correct consistency. It should feel almost like a soft cookie dough or moist playdough. In my opinion, too dry is worse than too wet.

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Mayhaw Man, Posted on Jun 13 2004, 10:37 AM

I lived in Tecate, BC, MX for two years and ate a ton of fish tacos on the docks in Ensenada and also in one particular Rubio's Outlet in Mission Beach (or PB-I get confused about where one ends and the other begins). Both were excellent (Rubio's is probably the best fast food chain, albeit small, in the US) and I got pretty good at imitating them.

Did you know that Rubio's has been bought out by--hmmm--Wendy's, if I recall correctly--and has reportedly gone straight down the tubes? What a loss.

Rubio's really was the gold standard of fish tacos in the United States. No more.

*sigh*

What's new at Mexico Cooks!?

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How the hell did I miss that? How disappointing.

I was around there in 97/98/99 and can't tell you how many of those things I ate. Ah well, there's always Ensenada.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Rubio's was bought by Wendy's? I don't see anything about this while perusing their web site, or cruising through their press releases for the last few years. Though I did see something about a franchise agreement for Portland, bringing the closest Rubio's to within 200 miles of my place :smile:

Are you sure about this?

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I'd also be leery of the sauce recipe.  Rather than mix the lime into the mayonnaise, I'd squeeze the lime on the tacos at table.  Thin the mayonnaise with a little milk, or preferably use Mexican crema rather than mayonnaise.  You'll want to add a little salt.  Rather than mix the cilantro into the sauce, I'd rough-chop it and serve it on the side too, the same way the cabbage is served.

Mexican goods are almost impossible to get here, so I can only dream about Mexican crema... I can't find sour cream either. :sad: I was hoping to get away with mayonnaise thinned with yogurt or milk.

Do you have a tortilla press?  Be sure to put plastic (like a plastic produce bag from the grocery) on it before you put the ball of prepared masa down--and put another one on top of the masa.  It's far easier to peel the plastic from the tortilla than it is to peel the tortilla away from the bare wood or metal of the press.

I don't have a tortilla press, but I assume I can hand roll them out, right? I have done that before for rotis.... is a tortilla press essential or just a shorthand?

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I'm too old to post stuff like that from memory. I went back and looked through my files and AAACKKKK, it was Baja Fresh that was bought by Wendy's, not Rubio's. :blink:

My profound apologies to all of you for creating confusion. Good grief.

I was hoping to get away with mayonnaise thinned with yogurt or milk.

Thin the mayonnaise with milk. If you can find some fresh serrano chiles, mince one or two of those--depending on your tolerance for heat in your food--and stir the mince into the mayonnaise/milk mixture, along with a little salt.

I don't have a tortilla press, but I assume I can hand roll them out, right? I have done that before for rotis.... is a tortilla press essential or just a shorthand?

If tortillas don't come from the tortillería machinery (and I know you're not likely to find a tortillería in Tokyo), they're patted out by hand. It's not very easy to learn to make them that way--I've been in Mexico for nearly 25 years and I still can't do it. The instructions might be on the bag of masa harina. If you want a real experience, invite your friends to make their own for the tacos and see who does the best ones. Getting them to come out nearly circular and thin is *ahem* most challenging.

Edited by esperanza (log)

What's new at Mexico Cooks!?

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Masa does have one advantage if you're going to do it by hand...no gluten. You can work the stuff as much as possible.

I've used two sheet pans back to back, two cutting boards, and some other methods for making tortillas without a press. Much easier than trying to roll them or hand pat them. Just try to apply even pressure quickly and put something such as plastic sheets between masa and the implement for flattening so it doesn't stick. Using something cast iron to push down one of the implements of pressing helps a lot. (If you ever buy a tortilla press get one of the heavy ones, not the light ones.)

Edited by ExtraMSG (log)
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Baaja Fresh was bought by Wendy's so that Wendy's could have a foothold in this market to keep up with McDonalds purchase of Chipotle Grill.

How about an "Asian" style baja taco? You could probably find moo shi pancakes, and use a good local fish, season with soy, pickled ginger, and daikon radish. You could make millions..:)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Tried the Rubios recipe for the fish taco batter. Hands down excellent. We had a feast for three the other day.

We fried fresh red snapper and served it up with the crema, shredded cabbage, radishes, salsa fresca and an arbol salsa, guacamole and lots of salads and hot corn tortillas.

Thanks for that inspiration.

s

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Just remember that the original fish tacos were no more than subsistence food at the waterside. The best tasting ones are the traditional and relatively plain. Any seaside village has fish tacos, and has had them for hundreds of years. The modern version is not necessarily the best for flavor.

As far as rolling dry masa, be aggressive and roll that puppy out in a couple of moves. Heat up, flip, heat up again and insert the goodies...ENJOY

Most of all, have a good time!!!

Edited by Mabelline (log)
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Pointing to what Mabelline said, when I hung out in Rosarito Beach, "relatively plain" meant that within the tortilla, there was little more than the fried fish, shredded cabbage, and crema. SOME of the roadside stands had quartered lime and MAYBE salsa to add to it, but many did not.

No radishes. No quacamole. Maybe salsa -- but only choice, not two.

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A few years ago, Carolyn Carreño wrote a nice piece about fish tacos for Saveur, but I don't see it in the database on their website. If I think of it when I get home, I'll dig through my old issues and see if I can what she had to say. Or else I'll discover I imagined the whole thing.

Is there a crema/mayo divide in Mexico? I go to the Yucatan a lot, and all the fish tacos (or better, shrimp) there are served with gobs and gobs of mayo. Delish, with lime and pico de gallo. In fact, in the grocery stores, mayonnaise takes up easily half an aisle. Ironic, considering Americans' love of salsa...

Zora O’Neill aka "Zora"

Roving Gastronome

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Being an obsessive Saveur collector, I was able to locate the issue you referred to (July/Aug, 2001, page 29). It is funny that in the article, they use and refer to avocado (which I don't recall while in Baja, and MAY be offered seasonally and not all the time). Like I remember, Saveur states the accoutrements are on the side:

...one of the many lining the waterfront, all of them selling the same, simple menu of whole fried fish with standard accompaniaments (tortillas, avocado, tomato, salsas, and lime), various seafood cocktails (shrimp, octopus, and so on) -- and fish tacos.

The "crema" is how remember it: A mixture of mayo and milk, which makes it pourable.

Entirely probable that my tomato-phobic self blanked out the availability of tomatoes.

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Whenever I got fish tacos, there were the available 'add-ons' right there to request. But at the small stalls, it was basically fish,corn tortilla, and crema, and maybe cabbage shreads. If you wanted a hot sauce there was typically a bottle of Cholula or the equivalent. No tomatoes, no avocadoes, no extra stuff. American surfers and ex-pats in Mexico have changed the complexion of the Mexican experience; not bad, but not the former authentic experience.

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  • 3 years later...

I recently returned to the excellent Taylor's Automatic Refresher, an upscale diner in San Francisco. I was compelled to order their delicious fish tacos a second time and after getting home I've been trying to recreate 'em. Here's how the menu describes the dish:

Grilled Mahi Mahi in spicy taco marinade, served in corn tortillas with mexican slaw, salsa and cilantro-jalapeno sour cream.

Two parts of this deceptively simple sounding dish, which ends up being substantially more delicious than the sum of its parts, I can't get quite right. The marinade, which is a reddish-brown (and which I think is drizzled over the grilled fish a second time when the tacos are built) and the salsa, which clearly has tomatoes and tomatillos in the mix, but something more. (Actually, if you have any thoughts on the slaw I'm all ears too.)

Have you ever eaten these tacos? How would you recreate? What am I missing?

Failing first hand Taylor's experience, have you ever made a sublime fish taco? How'd you make yours?

For the record, the fish in these tacos is not deep fried, and for my money, they're better off for it.

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For the record, the fish in these tacos is not deep fried, and for my money, they're better off for it.

Well then, you've never had a properly executed fish taco! :biggrin:

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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Taylor's Automatic Refresher was featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on Food Network. I see to recall seeing fish tacos on that show. You might want to see if you can find the episode, or catch a rerun sometime. You might be able to tell better what goes onto the tacos.

-- There are infinite variations on food restrictions. --

Crooked Kitchen - my food blog

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But you have to try the tacos I'm talking about. What are they, six hours drive from you?

Ya know, I just may take you up on that suggestion -- I'm in the area for a wedding next month, and if I get close to Taylor's (which I've seen mentioned just a few times now :rolleyes:), I'm definitely gonna hit it...

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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I just discovered fish tacos at The Tin Fish in San Diego and I'm keen to find a recipe to recreate them - though I think I could do a pretty decent job with household ingredients right now.

I ordered a fish taco at The Tin Fish because that's what everyone else was doing. In fact I changed my order from an oyster po'boy to do so. "Shame," said the guy taking orders, "once you've had the fish taco, you'll be back for more, but you'll never taste that po'boy." He's probably right.

As far as I can tell their fish taco is cheese (yellow, American), shredded salad, sauce (something like a tartare sauce, but with even more mayo than the usual recipe, to gentle it some) and goujons of flaky cod served on a soft (flour?) taco, to be picked up and eaten like a wrap.

Picture on my blog.

D.

Read about what I've been eating at http://theeatingwell.blogspot.com/

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FatTony,

While I haven't had the specific fish taco you're after, have you thought about asking for the recipe next time you're in the restaurant? Some restaurants will provide a recipe to their customers.

The "taco marinade" in the menu description sounds odd. You'd think they would have thought up a more evocative term than "taco marinade". What about buying a package of taco seasoning and creating a marinade out of it to use as a starting point?

Here's an epicurious.com recipe for Mexican Slaw. I think the ingredients that lend it a "Mexican flavor" would be the cilantro, cumin and lime juice. Again, you can play with the ingredients. Who knows? You could come up with something better.

As for true fish tacos:

Rubios - the chain that was built by the Fish Taco

The fish taco originated as a street vendor food down in Mexico. Cabbage (hence the slaw in the taco you're trying to replicate) doesn't wilt as easily as lettuce which is why it's found as an ingredient in true fish tacos. As for the original sauce in a true fish taco, it's probably nothing more then some Mexican crema thinned down. It's a simple food with simple ingredients.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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