Baja style fish tacos are one of my favorites. They are not something I normally make as I don't really enjoy frying food all that much. Especially when cooking for two, frying is something I prefer to leave to the professionals. As I mentioned in my mini crab taco post, I did, however, agree to take part in the Alaskan sea food promotion and do some posts on fish tacos, so when there was a break in the spring rains and I could fry the fish outdoors, I got to work. I managed to get my hands on some fresh Alaskan cod fillets, had some Anchor steam beer on hand that made a wonderfully crisp and light batter, put a Mexican slant on a Vietnamese papaya salad, and I must say, these were some of the best fish tacos I've ever had. Even better, I discovered the fried fish could be refrigerated/frozen and reheated in the oven and was still as good as you get at most restaurants.
Normally, fish tacos from Ensenada are served with shredded cabbage. I thought goi du du--Vietnamese papaya salad--would be a good substitute, light and crisp with a sweet, tart dressing of nuoc cham. I added thinly sliced red onions and used cilantro rather than rau ram, which is traditionally used in the salad. The assembled taco, with slices of fried fish and avocado along with the papaya salad and a drizzle of mayo mixed with Lingham's Hot Sauce (a sweet chili sauce from Malaysia) was delicious. This is a dish that will certainly be in my summer rotation.
Fish Tacos with Young Papaya Slaw
Alaskan cod fillets, sliced into pieces four to six inches long and several inches wide
1 12 oz bottle Anchor steam beer (although I'm sure another beer would be fine), chilled
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
oil for frying
2 cups thinly julienned young papaya
1/2 red onion, peeled and thinly julienned
1/3 cup thinly julienned carrot
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2+ TBS (to taste) Lingham's Hot Sauce
flour or corn tortillas
In a large bowl, whisk the beer into the flour, baking powder and salt. The batter will be fairly thick, similar to pancake batter.
Pour oil to the depth of several inches in a wok or some other vessel for frying. Heat the oil to 360º F. Try to maintain this temperature while frying the fish.
Dip the pieces of fish into the batter. Carefully lower the battered pieces into the hot oil and fry for several minutes until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. (Fried pieces may be cooled and frozen on a parchment lined baking sheet. Reheat in 375º F oven for eight minutes. Although not as good as when freshly fried, these were still remarkably good. The fish used in the photos was reheated in this manner.)
To make the papaya slaw, mix together the papaya, onion, carrot and cilantro and dress with the nuoc cham.
Assemble the tacos by slicing the fried fish into pieces that fit nicely in the tortilla. Add the papaya slaw and slices of avocado. Drizzle the spicy mayonnaise mixture on top. Enjoy with margaritas or beer.
As previously mentioned, I have received some gift cards to buy fish and tacos in exchange for doing some posts on fish tacos.