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Crispy Fish Tacos with a Spicy Crema

    Crispy Fish Tacos with a Spicy Crema

    Corn tortillas are stacked twice and filled with spicy mayonnaise, cilantro, and lime before being topped with beer-battered fish, crisp shredded cabbage, and pickled onions.

    There are times when fishing is excellent and others when it is not. The best thing, however, is how often I get to go out on the sea. This is because I just rediscovered the joy of charter boat fishing on weeknights and because I made some new friends who share my passion for the sport. Unfortunately, the majority of the fish we have caught are considered “trash fish” by others who are more knowledgeable about fishing.

    You can only catch so many cocktail blues, sea robins, and sand sharks before you start to wish for a striper on the end of your line, but any night out on the water with good companions and a couple of cool drinks is guaranteed to be entertaining.

    While blues may be a lot of fun to catch and can put up a good fight on a spinner, I’ve never been a fan of them as a source of food. The meat has a deep colour, a dreary grey hue, a heavy oil sheen, and a robust taste. They are great for a Jewish morning spread if you have a cold smoking cabinet, but not everyone like them as a fresh meat.

    The defects in the texture and taste of even the freshest blue fish were excellently hidden by the thick crust that could be developed in a cast iron pan with sizzling butter and the powerful perfume of the spices.

    When I was a kid, my family would often blacken blueberries to get rid of an overabundance of them. While Paul Prudhomme, the progenitor of modern American Cajun cooking, was still appearing on television, his blackening mixes were flying off the shelves in the dry spice aisle. Flaws in texture and taste are inevitable in even the freshest blue fish, but the thick crust you could produce in a cast iron pan with hot butter and the powerful scent of the spices made up for it wonderfully.

    I’m sure there are some people who like the unique taste that only fresh blues can provide. You guys are like Rush fans to me; we’ll just never agree on anything.

    I’m sure there are some people who like the unique taste that only fresh blues can provide. You guys are like Rush fans to me; we’ll just never agree on anything.

    Fish for tacos can be deep fried in a wok or Dutch oven with hot oil after being dipped in a thin batter made from beer or eggs (some recipes omit the batter entirely in favour of a simple dredge in a dry flour mix), but this method of cooking doesn’t yield the crispiest results and the fish tends to become soft rather quickly.

    “I can’t help but think of blackening spices when I think about blue fish, therefore I prefer to add a lot of chile powder and black pepper to the dish.”

    To counteract this, I like to use a two-pronged assault. To prepare the fish for deep-frying in peanut oil, I first dip it in a batter mixed with cake flour (whose reduced protein level helps maintain the batter light and crisp), beer (which provides lightening bubbles and flavour), and egg. Blue fish, to me, always reminds me of blackening spices, thus I prefer to add plenty of chile powder and black pepper when I cook it.

    If things go as planned (and there’s no reason they shouldn’t), the fish’s wet batter will drop into the dry mix, generating doughy flour pockets that attach to the fish’s skin and fill in all the nooks and crannies to make it extra crunchy. Even after being carefully tucked into a stack of soft, charred corn tortillas with shredded cabbage and spicy mayonnaise, those nooks and crannies retain their crispness.

    Fresh tomatoes, with their acidity and brightness, are a common topping for California fish tacos. The season for genuinely outstanding tomatoes in New York had not yet begun when I cooked these tacos, so I substituted some fast pickled red onions. They’re simple to whip up and I always keep a stockpile in any fridge I’m likely to be in close proximity to.

    One of my least favourite fishes is now one that I desire because of its crunch, brightness, and freshness.


    • 1 12 cup of flour for baking
    • 2-tablespoons paprika
    • Black pepper, 2 teaspoons
    • An authentic kind of salt known as Kosher
    • Beer, around three-quarters of a cup (plus more as necessary)
    • 1 egg
    • Combine with 3/4 cup of mayonnaise (see note)
    • Two Tablespoons Hot Sauce (Sriracha or Similar) (see note)
    • Peanut oil, 2 quarts
    • A pound of white fish (cod, hake, or halibut) sliced into eight 2-ounce fingers
    • 16 warmed corn tortillas
    • Shredded cabbage from 1 small cabbage head
    • Red onions, pickled in 1 easy recipe
    • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
    • A couple of limes, sliced into wedges


    1. Whisk together the flour, paprika, black pepper, and salt. Put half of the ingredients in a big bowl and put the other half aside. Whisk in the beer and egg to the leftover batter until it’s completely smooth. Batter should be as thick as paint (use up to 1/2 cup extra beer to get the right consistency). Putting aside.
    2. In a medium bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and spicy sauce until smooth. Putting aside.
    3. Deep fryer, Dutch oven, or big wok with oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Place the fish into the bowl containing the batter and flip to coat. Lift the fish, allowing the extra batter to drop out, and place it in the basin containing the remaining flour mixture, one piece at a time. Combine by tossing about. Utilizing either tongs or dry fingers, gently drop the item into the hot oil. Replace them with the rest of the fish.
    4. For approximately 3 minutes total, fry while rotating periodically until both sides are golden brown. Salt and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
    5. Cut tortillas in half and stack them to make 8 individual tortillas. Put one piece of fish on each tortilla and top with shredded cabbage, pickled red onions, chile mayonnaise, and chopped cilantro. Put lime wedges on the table.

    A Unique Set of Tools

    A thermometer that can be read in seconds; a Dutch oven, wok, or deep fryer


    I prefer to make my sauce using mayonnaise, but if you don’t like it, you can always use sour cream or Mexican crema instead.

    For this dish, I recommend using an Asian chile sauce because of its mild chile and garlic taste. The Asian chile sauce may be swapped out for the vinegarier tang of an American-style hot sauce or the smokiness of canned chipotles in adobo sauce.

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