In the pantheon of perfect tacos (indeed, that’s a big group), the coveted Baja fish taco has earned its rightful spot.
Now, you could argue that fish tacos don’t exactly qualify as comfort food, yet something about each bite of that golden, crispy fish — enhanced by tangy hot sauce, cooling, creamy mayo and a toothsome cabbage crunch — just triggers in me a deep-rooted, immense pleasure.
The recipe that follows was inspired by my one of my favorite vendors in Ensenada, who deviates from your run-of-the-mill fish batter by adding a few unexpected ingredients. (Yellow mustard, anyone?)
To those balking at the idea of frying in your home kitchen, I say fear not — these tacos are totally worth it. And yes, you can totally pull it off on a weeknight.
Make the batter. Finely chop the garlic, sprinkle generously with salt, then mash back and forth with the side of your knife across your cutting board until crushed to a puree. Scrape into a medium bowl and add the oregano, black pepper, mustard, chicken base or bouillon, and ½ teaspoon salt. Whisk in the beer or water, then add the flour and baking powder and whisk just until combined.
Prepare the condiments. Mix together the mayonnaise, crema or sour cream and enough milk to give the mixture an easily spoonable consistency; scrape into a serving bowl. Set out with the cabbage, salsa and limes in serving bowls.
Fry the fish. Heat the oil in a deep heavy skillet to 375 degrees. While the oil is heating, cut the fish into pieces about 3 inches long by 1/2 inch square. Use a pair of tongs to pick up a piece of fish, dip it completely into the batter, and lay it into the oil, letting it dangle a few seconds before letting it go (this helps to keep them from sticking on the bottom). Continue with a few more pieces of fish, filling the hot oil with an uncrowded layer. Fry, turning the pieces regularly, until deep golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a low oven on a wire rack set over a sheet pan while you fry the rest of the fish.
Serve. Transfer the crispy fish to a warm platter. Bring it to the table with the warm corn tortillas and all the condiments for everyone to make delicious tacos.