Growing up in Toronto, my exposure to Mexican food was limited to A) Taco Bell (fries supreme anyone??), B) Old El Paso taco kits and C) Cancun resort food (spring break at a 3 star = pepto bismal appetizers).
Fish tacos are pretty easy to find on a lot of restaurant menus, especially here in the Southwest. For a while, I thought that in order to get them, I had to go out to eat . But I figured out how to make them and now my fast fish tacos are a go-to meal when I want a yummy and healthful meal, with minimal effort.
Authentic Mexican? Um no. Infinitely better than Taco Bell/Old El Paso/Cancun all-you-can-eat? Si.
A note about corn tortillas: living in Scottsdale, Arizona is amazing for authentic Mexican food. Ingredients like Mexican hot sauce and fresh corn tortillas are staples in grocery stores but definitely harder to find in Toronto. I know they carry the fresh corn tortillas at Whole Foods in Hazelton Lanes in Yorkville (not sure where else though).
I used blue corn tortillas from Trader Joe’s for these tacos here but like using white and yellow corn tortillas too. I don’t discriminate, just appreciate.
The hot sauce is the secret ingredient here to keep the tacos somewhat authentic tasting – it’s smokey and delicious and I use copious amounts. D adds it to ketchup for a spicy ketchup-y dipping sauce for his grilled cheese sammies… so clever. Secret sauce no more. Go find it… Cholula and Tapatio are the best (Cholula ships to Canada!). Don’t you just love the dude on the Tapatio label? We use this one at home.
Fish tacos are typically garnished with shredded cabbage; I add a dollap of fresh guacamole (avocado dip) and/or pico de gallo (fresh condiment made from tomato and onion). To heat the tortillas, I pile them on a plate (max 5 at a time) and put a damp but not wet paper towel over them and microwave for about 30 – 45 seconds. Or if you have a tortilla warmer, use that instead (duh). Or you can individually heat them in a pan with a little spray oil.
You can use just about any firm white fish – I used sea bass here but have used halibut, cod, tilapia and trout in the past and all have been great. I really like the texture of the sea bass so that’s my preferred fish taco fish choice.
And of course, you don’t have to make all the condiments for the tacos. Store bought salsa or guacamole are great time saving options or you could just use a few slices of fresh avocado and/or tomato. That’s what makes this such a great meal – you can usually find enough of the basics to whip this up with just about anything you happen to have on hand.
PS – when cutting the jalapeno, de-seed them to reduce the heat factor as most of the heat is in the seeds. I also removed the white parts and dice the green, which adds flavour without too much heat. And don’t touch a jalapeno and then touch your eyes – your eyes will burn like crazy (trust me, I learned the hard way). Wear gloves or use a fork when handling jalapenos or any hot peppers.
PPS – I revised the recipe because I’ve started adding some tapioca powder or cornstarch to the spice mixture to coat the fish before pan frying. This gives the fish an amazing lightly crispy coating making these tacos even more delicious. Revised ingredients are underlined below.
Recipe (serves 2, about 5 – 6 tacos) ***Recipe revised***
Fast Fish Tacos
- 12 oz firm flesh white fish, cut into 1″ pieces (I used seabass for these ones)
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch or tapioca powder***
- Salt to taste
- 2 tsp canola oil, plus cooking spray or canola oil for the pan
- 1 lime
- 5 - 6 fresh corn tortillas
- Mexican hot sauce (optional)
- Coriander/cilantro leaves for garnish
- 1 to 2 cups finely sliced purple cabbage
Combine the fish, spices, cornstarch or tapioca powder, salt, and oil in a bowl and toss until fish is evenly coated. Heat a large non stick skillet to medium high heat and coat with cooking spray or canola oil. Add fish pieces to the pan without crowding – the fish should not touch the other pieces or the edge of the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes before flipping. Edges should start to crisp up. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until fish is cooked (depends on thickness of the fish). Remove from pan and squeeze fresh lime juice.
To heat corn tortillas by microwave, pile tortillas on a plate and cover with a damp but not wet paper towel and heat for 30 – 45 seconds. To heat on stove, spray a skillet with non-stick cookcing spray and warm tortillas until slightly crisp. Assemble and serve with sauces and garnishes of your choice.
Fresh Guacamole (serves 2)
- 1 medium ripe Hass avocados
- 1 Tbsp Spanish onion, finely diced
- 1 Tbsp finely minced coriander/cilantro
- 1 tsp fresh lime juice
- Pinch of cayenne or chili powder (optional)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced (optional)
- Salt to taste
Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mash. Serve chunky or smooth. Serve immediately.
Pico de Gallo (serves 2)
- 1 cup diced and de-seeded tomatoes (I used baby plum tomatos)
- 2 Tbsp Spanish onion, finely diced
- 1 jalapeno, de-seeded and finely diced (optional)
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- pinch of sugar
- Salt to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.