For me, there’s nothing more representative of coastal Californian cuisine than a delicately fried fish taco with crunchy cabbage and a handmade tortilla. Its an ode to both the expansive Pacific waters that stretch the length of shoreline that we call home and the Mexican heritage of this area. It’s a dish enjoyed in any season, as long as the fish is fresh and caught locally! Prep all your ingredients first, shred the cabbage, slice the radish and make your aioli. Clean and slice the fish into 1oz portions then refrigerate. Make the batter last and keep it as cold as possible, this will ensure a nice crispy fried fish.
2 lbs Fish (rock cod works best here)
1/2 Cup Cornstarch
1/2 Cup Flour
About 8 oz of Beer
1 Quart Frying Oil
1 Cup Habanero Aioli
1/4 head Cabbage
For the Aioli:
In a food processor add 1 egg yolk, 1t dijon, 1t vinegar, 2 garlic cloves, a squeeze of lime and 1T habanero hot sauce (recipe to follow), on low speed slowly add 1 cup of olive oil, salt to taste.
For the Batter:
The trickiest part of a tempura fried fish taco is nailing the tempura batter. The goal is for it to turn out airy, light and crispy. The challenge comes from avoiding over-mixing the batter, causing the flour protein to form gluten which will yield a bready and chewy result. A traditional tempura batter uses egg for richness and flavor but I like to substitute beer which will enhance the flavor of the batter but create a more forgiving one. Put the cornstarch and flour in a bowl, add a pinch of salt and the zest of a lime. Using a fork to mix, slowly begin adding beer until the batter forms a slurry, the constistency should be similar to pancake batter and should coat the back of a spoon. Don’t worry about clumps, the most important thing is not to over mix.
To Fry your Fish:
As always select the freshest fish you can, white, fatty and flaky. Any kind of cod works beautifully. Heat a cast iron skillet with canola oil at least 1 inch deep on medium high. When the oil reaches 320-340 Degrees, dredge 3-4 pieces of fish in plain flour then dip each one in the tempura batter individually, allowing any excess batter to run off before slowly putting it into the oil. The oil should immediately bubble around the fish, if not, its not hot enough. After 2 minutes, turn the fish over, it’s done when the batter is golden brown and the bubbling slows down, about 3-5 minutes total. Transfer fish to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil. Season the fish with salt while it is still hot from the frier. Repeat with remaining fish. Keep in mind that as you add fish to the oil, the temperature will start to go down so you may need to adjust the flame to maintain the heat.
For the Tacos:
Tortillas play a huge role in the greatness of a taco. You want to find the freshest tortilla you can, preferably one that’s been made using the traditional nixtamal process. Warm your tortillas, dollop a spoonful of aioli in the center of each one, then place 1-2 pieces of fried fish on top. Finish with shredded and a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!