I can’t believe today marks being in Texas for 9 months–it feels like the time has just flown by and this truly feels like home now. While I miss San Diego more than I can say, I feel like I’ve really embraced San Antonio and come to really like it here. One of the things I really freaking miss is baja style fish tacos. There are numerous little trucks all over the county where you can get fresh, delicious fish tacos for $1. None of this tilapia bullshit that plagues Texas (sorry, guys), but fresh mahi mahi or cod. A baja fish taco has specific criteria it must meet.
First, it has to be fried–not heavy breading, but light and crisp, almost tempura-like batter. Second, it has to sit on a corn tortilla (sorry flour tortilla lovers). It’s got to have some kind of crema, pico de gallo and cabbage. AND THAT’S IT. Maybe some limes on the side for squeezing. Perfectly simple and incredible. Because Texas is repping a much different style of Mexican food (and for the love of god, more tilapia than anyone should ever be exposed to), these tacos are pretty much non-existent, at least from what I have seen.
I was recently in San Diego celebrating my birthday and LITERALLY my first stop after a hellish ride from the airport was to a tiny fish taco truck. And guess what? THEIR FREAKING FRYERS WERE BROKEN. I truly haven’t been that heartbroken in a while. I had been dreaming about those tacos for days leading up to the trip, only to be denied. Truly soul crushing stuff here, guys. When I got home, naturally my craving for tacos wasn’t even the least bit satisfied. So, of course I decided to bring my favorite style of fish tacos to Texas. I have always been a lover of good beers and so when I moved here, everyone was drinking Shiner Bock and to be honest, I was skeptical. Now, it’s probably one of my favorite beers to relax with on a warm day (they did not pay me to say this, I just really love Shiner Bock).
And thus, we have a true marriage of California and Texas that is born out of this taco. The carbonation from the Shiner Bock in the batter keeps it light and crispy and gives a great, malty flavor. If Shiner Bock isn’t available where you are (I’m sorry), just grab another lighter amber beer, like a dos XX amber or something similar. And please, dear god, do not make these tacos with tilapia. Cod and mahi mahi are sold frozen in most grocery stores–don’t subject yourself to the bottom-feeder garbage that is tilapia.
Beer battered Fish:
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 oz shiner bock or other amber beer
2 lbs. firm white fish, like cod, halibut, or mahi mahi
extra flour for dusting the fish
1/2 cup mexican crema
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 chipotle peppers in adobo
juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pico de Gallo:
1 ripe beefsteak tomato, finely diced
3 tablespoons white onion, very finely diced
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and finely diced
3 tablespoons minced cilantro
juice of 2 limes
1/2 teaspoon salt
canola oil, for frying
12 corn tortillas, warmed
pico de gallo
2 cups shredded green cabbage
lime wedges, for serving
*if using frozen fish, be sure to defrost completely and pat the fish really dry with paper towels so that the batter sticks. Actually, just pat all your fish really dry, fresh or frozen.
Cut fish into sticks roughly 1″ thick. Line a tray or plate with paper towels and place the fish on the towels with more towels on top and pat until very dry. SERIOUSLY, PAT UNTIL DRY.
Mix all batter ingredients together until smooth. The mixture should be slightly thinner than pancake batter. Set in the fridge until ready to use, it’s important that the batter stays cold.
To make the crema: Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Can be kept for 1 week.
To make the pico: Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be kept for 3 days.
Heat at least 2 inches of canola oil (about 1 1/2 quarts depending on the size of your pot) in a heavy bottomed pot (I use a 4qt lodge dutch oven) to 375 degrees F using a probe thermometer. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet for the fish once it comes out of the oil. The rack is important so that the extra oil drips off and keeps the fish from being greasy or soggy.
Working in batches of four or so at a time, Lightly dust the fish with a little bit of flour, shaking off any excess and then dip the fish into the batter and coat well, and as you remove the fish let some of the excess batter drip off. Gently lower the fish into the oil and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the oil and transfer to the wire rack. Repeat until all the fish has been fried. You can also have an oven on at 200 degrees and transfer the tray to the oven between batches to the keep the fish warm. Serve on corn tortillas with crema, pico, cabbage and limes.