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Baja-style Fish Tacos

My grandmother, who was from Baja California, used to cook for me all the time when I was very young. Unfortunately, I never learned her cooking secrets. So I’m on a mission to learn to make all of my favorite Mexican dishes, much like I did with Armenian meals.

The one good thing about being exposed to a particular cuisine, even if you don’t know how to make anything, is that you know how to EAT it. Meaning that you can tell from a recipe whether or not you are going to like it. So, after some poking around on the net, I chose to base my recipe off of this fish taco recipe on NPR. I did, however, tweak it a bit, and those changes are noted below. One thing I did consistently omit was cilantro, of which I am not a huge fan. So if you want to add it I suggest looking at the original recipe on NPR.

I have to say–my mother hates fish, so she ate all of the other ingredients together in a tortilla, with a little shredded cheddar added. And she loved it! So this can work as a vegetarian dish as well.

Beer-battered fish for fish tacos

Yum-o! Wow, I can't believe I just typed that

Skill Level:  EASY

Preparation time:  About 10-20 minutes depending on fish preparation.

Cooking time:  2-3 minutes to cook, 1 minute to reheat.

Servings: 6-8.

2 lbs. fresh white fish (you want a meaty fish like halibut–which also happens to be a sustainable choice 🙂 )

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4- 1/2 tsp cayenne (to taste)

1/2 tsp dry ground mustard

1 tsp dried whole oregano, rubbed to a powder (if you don’t have whole oregano, don’t sweat it–it just tastes a bit more intense)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper (I always prefer to grind it myself to bring out the flavor)

approx. 14 oz. cold beer (I used Corona)

the juice of 3 limes

a bottle of canola oil (for frying)

Heat the oil (at a height of about 2 inches) in a deep pan.

While that is getting ready, thoroughly mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Add the lime juice and the beer, to where you get a thick but not stiff consistency (you want it to be able to slowly drip off the fish).

If you’d like your fish to have a little extra flavor, I would suggest rubbing a little bit of salt into the fish before you start cutting it up. This will give it a little extra “oomph” once it’s cooked. For even more zing, let the fish sit in some white vinegar and a splash of lime juice and salt for about 10 minutes before you cut it up. Be careful not to let it sit for too much longer than this or you’ll end up with ceviche! The vinegar and lime will actually “cook” the fish a little bit but it also imparts a tangy flavor before you douse it in the batter.

Cut the fish into small strips, as NPR’s recipe says, about the size of your pinky finger. I would suggest even smaller than that, maybe half a pinky–keep in mind that the batter is going to expand while frying and you are going to end up with pretty big pieces that you are trying to cram into a tortilla with a bunch of other stuff.

The oil should be hot enough that if you drip a tiny bit of batter in, it pops right back up to the surface and immediately begins to turn golden.

When the oil is ready, start dropping about 3-4 pieces of fish at a time into the batter with tongs, making sure to coat the piece and letting it drip a little bit before placing into the oil. Let the fish cook for 2-3 minutes each; flip it over about halfway between to ensure an even golden color.

Remove the fish to a rack, or alternatively to a bowl with a few paper towels to absorb the oil.

Reserve the oil for later if you plan on reheating! Let it cook for about a minute each–it comes out even crunchier the second time around!

Chili salsa (with chili arbol)

I know I have touted the benefits of foregoing the machinery, but in this case I find that it’s worth the time and effort saved, especially considering how many little elements are needed to put together one little taco! Here we go:

Watch out now--it's hotter than it looks!

Skill Level:  EASY (although you may wish to use gloves if you’re sensitive to spice)

Preparation time:  About 10 minutes.

Servings: at least 6-8. Watch out though–it’s hot!

30 or so chilies arbol (if you don’t have a Latino market near you, you should be able to find this in the “ethnic foods” section of most supermarkets with the spices)

1/4 cup water (I find any more than this makes the salsa a bit runny)

1 tsp white vinegar

1 garlic cloved, smashed with side of knife

1 tsp olive oil

Cut the stems off of the chilies. If you like your salsa hot, this is all you need to do. If you want to tone it down a bit (I recommend this), de-seed the chilies by pinching them and breaking them apart. The seeds should just fall out, and you can brush them away. Set the rest of the pinched chili bits aside.

Heat up the smashed garlic clove in the olive oil to bring out the flavor. When it’s a bit softened, remove from heat.

Put the chili bits, the garlic with its oil, and the water and vinegar in a food processor and blend until you have a nice thin consistency.

Mayonnaise sauce

This is really almost too easy to even post as a recipe

Skill Level:  EASY

Preparation time:  About 1 minute.

Servings: at least 6-8.

A few tablespoons of mayonnaise

1 tsp white vinegar

1 tbsp water (more if needed)

This may be the all-time easiest thing I’ve ever posted, and ever will post. Take a few  tablespoons of mayonnaise (I prefer La Costeña mayonnaise with lime juice) and add the vinegar and water. Mix until consistent. This will balance the spice of the chili salsa nicely.

Avocado tomatillo sauce

Like guacamole's smoother cousin

1 avocado

1/2 tomatillo

1/4 tsp salt

about 1/2 tsp lime juice (feel free to add more if you love lime)

2-3 tbsp water

Peel and pit the avocado. You want a nice fresh bright green color inside, and hopefully soft as well which will make for a creamy salsa texture. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and blend until consistent. Here’s a picture of a tomatillo in case you haven’t cooked with one before:

So purty

Pico de Gallo


1/2 medium yellow onion

2 Roma tomatoes

1 Serrano or Anaheim pepper, seeded

2 sprigs green onion

juice of 1/2 lime

about 1 tsp salt, or to taste

Again, this one is super easy. And no processor necessary. Just dice the onion, the tomatoes, and the pepper, finely chop the green onion, and mix everything in a bowl. Some people add a bit of finely chopped garlic, but I like it fine without it. Basically what you want to see is an even distribution of white, red, and green throughout the bowl, a rough ratio of 1:1:1. Pico de gallo can last a day or two in the fridge but is really served best fresh.


What more you’ll need:

corn tortillas

shredded green cabbage

Heat up some soft corn tortillas (I like yellow corn). I usually hear people talking about heating them up on skillets, but the way my grandmother used to do it was right over the open flame on the stove. I prefer to do it this way myself, because I like the taste of a tortilla just ever so slightly charred around the edges. In order to do this though just make sure the heat is as low as you can go, to give you more time and better chances of getting an evenly heated tortilla.

Layer in the avocado tomatillo, the chili salsa, the mayonnaise salsa, the fish, the pico de gallo, and the cabbage into a heated tortilla. You can squeeze a little extra lime over everything for good measure if you’d like. Then fold it over–and enjoy! I find it best served with a nice cold Corona (with, yes, just a little bit more lime thrown in!)…

Yes you can!

3 Responses to “Baja-style Fish Tacos”

  1. […] recipes that can be made with sustainably harvested, non-endangered sea critters. Case in point: Baja-style fish tacos, made with fresh halibut. Deep fried Pacific halibut. Delicious… and […]

  2. […] with any meal where you need a tangy, starchy side dish. I actually made it to accompany my Baja-style fish tacos the other […]

  3. […] little bit malty, the batter came out nice and crunchy. Definitely a different consistency than the deep-fried Baja-style fish tacos from last week–but equally as […]