By Angela Denstad Stigeler
It’s summertime, and the fish are jumping—right into all kinds of cuisines. While those of us north of the boarder don’t often think of Mexican food when we imagine fish dishes—likely because of all the heavier meat and cheese-laden Tex-Mex fare that dominates—our southern neighbor boasts long coastlines and all manner of seafood.
One of the tastiest treatments of white fish comes from the Baja peninsula, south of California, in the form of a casual taco. A tasty balance of crispy batter-fried and tender white fish with a rich sour cream sauce, and topped with crunchy cabbage, a Baja fish taco is like a fish dinner wrapped up in a soft tortilla. Sure to please even the least likely fish eaters, it’s a fun way to get everyone involved in the meal, since assembly is plate-side and each person can customize their tacos to taste.
If you happen to have some fishermen and women who want to contribute their catch of the day to the meal, so much the better! When the fishing is good, the leftovers will freeze well and be at-the-ready for a quick broil some other day. If you end up with just a small fry, these tacos are a great way to impressively make a little fish go a long way. So when fish is on the menu, try this line from the Mexican coast and you’ll be hooked. Once you taste these tacos, you’ll likely find that, of all the possible preparations of fresh fish, the one you’ll be longing for is the one that goes olé!
Baja-Style Fish Tacos
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 cup light beer, sparkling water or plain cold water
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup flour
1 pound boneless, skinless white fish fillets (cod, halibut or tilapia)
oil for frying, to a depth of 1 ½ inches
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
juice of ½ a lime
½ teaspoon crushed oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
cayenne pepper, to taste
12 small corn or flour tortillas, warmed
1-2 cups finely shredded cabbage
fresh salsa, hot sauce and lime wedges, for serving
Finely mince the garlic, sprinkle generously with salt and mash it back and forth with the side of your knife a few times, crushing it into a puree. Scrape the garlic salt into a medium bowl, add another ½ teaspoon salt, the mustard and the beer or water. Mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the baking powder and flour. Add the flour to the wet ingredients and whisk just until combined.
Line a platter with paper towels and heat the oil to 375 degrees. Cut the fish into ½-inch strips, about 3 inches long. Use a pair of tongs to dip the fish strips into the batter and fry in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes, then transfer to the prepared platter and keep warm in a low oven; continue to fry the rest of the fish.
In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, oregano, cumin, dill, cayenne and ½ teaspoon salt until well combined.
To serve, place a piece or two of fish in a tortilla, top with cabbage, sour cream sauce, salsa, hot sauce and a squeeze of lime to taste.