How to Make (Easy) Fish Tacos
Fish tacos are one of my all-time favorite dishes. As with most favorites, I’m a little picky. I was spoiled by a trip to Los Angeles, where my mother and I went to a small taco stand in La Mirada on Valley Boulevard. Right in the heart of the warehouses and delivery trucks, the graffitied walls and trash strewn streets was a small (but busy) fish taco stand.
This stand was as authentic as it gets—I don’t think they made anything but tacos. If they did, fish tacos were all anyone ordered. And rightly so, they did everything perfect. The fish was crisp but not over-cooked, the tortillas small and soft, they had a sizable salsa bar, and ample sides of pickled radishes, jalapenos and carrots.
Determined to recreate this fabled taco, I got a variety of fish. I knew I didn’t want the density of halibut, but cod, tilapia and snapper seemed most like the texture I was looking for. After trying all three, I found that the tilapia was inexpensive, had the right balance of flakiness and flavor and was sustainably harvested.
I also tried a variety of breading; Japanese-style panko (too much), just lightly floured (too light) and beer battered (just right, after some adjustments). All three made good fish, but a thin beer batter gave it a good crust without masking the flavor.
- 1 pound tilapia, cut into thin 1-inch strips
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups beer, pilsner
- 4 cups peanut oil
- 6-10 small corn tortillas
- 4 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1 cup carrots, shredded
- 1 cup red radishes, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 1 lime
- In a large, heavy bottomed pan (I prefer cast iron as it retains and equalizes heat), add enough oil to fill the pan about 1-inch thick. Heat over medium-high heat. In a large bowl add flour and salt. Whisk in enough beer that when you dip your finger into the batter all but a thin layer remains.
- In a medium bowl combine cabbage, carrots and radishes. Toss with lime juice and sprinkle with salt. Heat tortillas on a skillet or in tin foil in a warm oven until soft and steaming.
- Place fish on paper towels and pat until dry. When oil begins to shimmer (you can also test the oil temperature with a piece of bread, it should bubble immediately and brown within 30 seconds of entering the oil), dip fish in batter, let most of the batter drip off and place in oil.
- Cook fish in batches to not reduce the oil temperature too much. Remove fish and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot with cabbage mixture, tortillas and the salsa of your choice.
- I recommend a simple salsa filling of cabbage, carrots and radish slaw, with a mango cucumber salsa. Try out this easy recipe for your next taco party and let me know what you think.