Sadly, I find most restaurants just don’t know how to make good fish tacos. Such a shame.
It was in Baja California where my love for fish tacos began. When I was young, my parents owned a home in Ensenada (which is located on the coast of Baja California about 30 minutes south of the San Diego-Mexico border). To say we visited often would be a complete understatement. Pretty much every long weekend, most summers or days that ended with “y” were all good enough reasons for my parents to pack up the car and go.
One of my favorite memories during these trips to Baja was making fish tacos with fresh rock cod and sea bass. There was no question what we would make when we brought home the fresh fish. What great memories.
When Dustin and I moved to San Diego last year, I kept seeing restaurants boast about their fish tacos. This brought back my good memories and renewed my cravings. I searched and searched, but I couldn’t find anyone who could make good fish tacos. Crazy, right? What really frustrated me was that people around town would say, “[enter restaurant's name] has the best fish tacos,” but, no sir, they did not. Was it possible I let my memories of blissful summers and beloved Baja fish tacos get the better of me? Were they actually that good, or had I made them better in my head over time? I hate when I do that!
I realized I had to take matters into my own hands: I needed to make the fish tacos myself. So, I added them to My Summer List.
Given that bringing a 15-month old on a fishing boat — no matter how cute she is — is never a good choice, store-bought “fresh” rock cod would have to suffice. I made fresh pico de gallo salsa with just enough heat to remember it on your lips. My favorite. I made a creamy white dill sauce that buckles the knees it’s so good. I thinly sliced the cabbage and cut the lime wedges. Such simple ingredients for such a truly delicious meal.
The verdict? They were fantastic. Just like I remembered. Well, except for the fresh, homemade corn tortillas like in Baja. Some things are better left for the memories anyways.
I really recommend you try these tacos with the fresh pico de gallo and creamy white dill sauce. The combination is so, so very yummy. I prefer a cornmeal and flour mixture spiced with some cayenne pepper, garlic powder and black pepper for coating the fish, as opposed to a beer batter, because I find the fish gets lost in a beer batter. But, that’s just me.
Here’s to good — and tasty — memories!
Baja Fish Tacos with Fresh Pico de Gallo
For the Pico de Gallo Salsa:
2 medium tomatoes on the vine, diced
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 sprigs cilantro, roughly chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cumin
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Season with additional salt, lime, pepper and/or cumin to taste. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
For the Creamy White Dill Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt
juice from 1/2 a lime (approx 2 tbsp)
1 tsp. jalapeno pepper, minced
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Season with additional salt, lime, pepper and/or cumin to taste. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
For the fish:
1 lb. fresh rock cod or sea bass fillet, cut into strips of 2-3 oz. portions
1/4 cup al-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. water
Canola or vegetable oil
1/2 head medium cabbage, thinly sliced
8-10 good quality corn tortillas
In a flat dish, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder. In a separate dish, combine egg with 2 tbsp. water.
Pour enough oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4 inch. Heat oil on high heat until hot and then turn to medium high heat.
Dip fish into egg and then dust lightly with flour-cornmeal mixture. Fry until golden brown on all sides, approximately 4-6 minutes. Remove promptly and drain on a plate covered with paper towels.
Wrap tortillas in a damp cloth or paper towel and microwave on high for 10-15 seconds.
To serve, place a few pieces of fried fish on corn tortilla (you can use single or doubled tortillas, depending on your preference). Drizzle fish with desired about of Creamy White Dill Sauce and Fresh Pico de Gallo. Top with sliced cabbage.