Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Journey to Fish Tacos

Since the “Celebration of Daves” post, a couple of people have asked for my Fish Tacos recipe. I am so glad to share it with you, as well as the mango/avocado salsa, and tangy slaw, which are essential elements.
But I must tell you about my journey to fish tacos, the back-story, if you will.

I grew up eating Mexican food all the time. My parents love it and my dad especially loves the hot stuff. I always joke that my parents must have put salsa in my bottle because I have always loved it. But it wasn't until about 10 years ago that I heard of “fish tacos.” This is probably because I had never had California Mexican food. Baja Burrito is our favorite local Mexican restaurant and they have an amazing fish taco. My husband, Dave, loves them, craves them, converts people to them, returns from road trips strategizing about how soon he can get them. Baja’s version quickly became the fish-taco-standard in our home. If you live in Nashville then you probably have had the chance to have a few yourself, but those of you who aren’t local I need to explain: they are fried fish on a corn tortilla (actually 2 tortillas doubled up) with finely chopped onion, cilantro and shredded cabbage with a special creamy sauce. A lime is nestled on top which when squeezed adds a nice zippy compliment to the cream sauce. They are a party for the taste buds.

So of course, we have attempted to reproduce this wonderful creation. (This is a normal experience in our home where we try to discern ingredients at restaurants and take notes and come home and try to recreate the dish). But my attempts with fish tacos have yet to reach the point of re-creation! Each time I made them I would tweak the ingredients in order to improve it. And each time I would sit: watching, waiting in anticipation of Dave’s reaction. Would he like them? Could they meet his standards? And each time he would say, “They’re good…(with that raised inflection that seems to indicate “but”…) “but they are no Baja Burrito”. After several attempts I began to give a disclaimer, an instruction of sorts: “before you take a bite, think ‘new food experience’, not Baja Burrito, okay?” But I just have never figured out the trick. (Maybe the fact that I have never deep-fried the fish but rather baked them might have contributed to my failed attempts).

I have come to terms with this and have concluded that:
If you want the Baja Burrito fish taco, the fried amazing creamy perfect one, then spend the couple of dollars and drive the few miles down the road and buy the fish taco!
In the meantime I have switched gears and have started to make grilled or baked fish tacos with a mango salsa. The result has been remarkable. It is essentially a different dish. It is tangy and healthy; light and spicy; flavorful and able to be created in our kitchen! Success! And we love them, even crave them! Hooray!

You can’t go wrong with these ingredients and an open mind as to the definition of taco!
The elements of this version are:
Fish, Tangy Slaw, Avocado & Mango Salsa and Corn Tortillas

click for printable recipe
Tangy Slaw
3 cups (divided) Shredded Cabbage (Cole Slaw in a bag found in the lettuce section at grocery store works great)
2 Tbsp. Light Mayonnaise
Juice of one Lime
A splash of Apple Cider Vinegar
Coarse Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Place 2 cups cabbage in a bowl. Add the other ingredients and blend with a fork. Add in another cup of cabbage.

Mango & Avocado Salsa
1 avocado, halved, peeled and diced
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
½ cup red onion, finely diced
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you want more heat)
Juice of one juicy lime
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp coarse salt

In a bowl, combine all ingredients

4 pieces Tilapia
olive oil
coarse salt
cayenne pepper
garlic powder
juice of one lime

Coat tilapia with olive oil.
Season with coarse salt, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder on both sides.
Place on grill pan or large skillet.
Cook at medium high until edges turn white, then flip. Squeeze lime juice on fish. Cook until white throughout and flaky. Break into pieces.

To Assemble: Heat Corn Tortillas, add fish, then top with slaw and mango salsa. Enjoy!


  1. I discovered fish tacos when we moved to Nashville and I am a faithful convert. Baja Burrito is my favorite place to get them too. I have made the dressing that goes with it using a combo of sour cream and mayo with TONS of lime and cilantro and it is awesome.

  2. This sounds fabulous and actually better than the Baja Burrito ones. I am not a fan of cream sauce or fried fish but grilled with mango salsa......mmmmm!!!!!

  3. Sounds delish Julie! When we make fish tacos, we always make a mango slaw - combining your two recipes. We use agave nectar or honey and put the mango in with the slaw, sour cream, salt and pepper. Simple and delicious! Maybe I'll make it tonight :)

  4. I Love your sharing...keep it coming!

  5. Yum! I am getting some mangoes from my co-op this weekend. I am definitely going to make these. I will try to take pics and post it with a link to your blog on my blog :)

  6. mmm...now i'm hungry. thanks for sharing this!!! that mango salsa is so yummy.

  7. Now that's a recipe to try. . . but can we still sit outside at Baja Burrito when the weather cools down again? You introduced me to fish tacos there, you know!