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Recipe: fish tacos

Hoo boy! I have been busy… in the good way. You know, getting things done. I still have plenty more on my plate, but I imagine that keeps me off the streets more or less. I got a request from Antarctica the other day. Apparently the dwindling NSF (National Science Foundation) budget translates into crappier than usual fare at McMurdo Station this season. I spent a little time today scampering about Boulder with BethBeth, gathering precious food stuffs for our bud(s) way down south. Who knew it was so damn hard to find whole fat powdered milk?! And I had to take care what to include in the package because trash is a big issue in Antarctica. While I don’t think trash is as trivial an issue in “civilization” as most people do (chuck it out, don’t think about it anymore), it really does factor into what to send to Antarctica because, well – it’s Antarctica!

we miss you: M, J, J (get well soon, sweetie), and P

I think food blogging keeps me from repeating meals as often as I would otherwise. I used to flip through my quadrille notebook (that’s where I write down the keeper recipes) and come up with a weekly menu lickity split. But these days I incorporate at least two to three new recipes a week for the purpose of trying something new and blogging it. Because of this pattern, I’ve neglected some old favorites. After I made spring rolls I had that pot of oil sitting there… What else to fry?

that is some sexy red snapper

I first had fish tacos in Southern California. One of my co-workers turned me on to the awesome fish tacos from Señor Fish. Even our sushi chef gave it high praise! I know it’s healthier to do the grilled fish tacos, but come on – the fried version is like fish and chips without the chips, in corn tortillas with lime and cabbage!

slice into 1-inch thick strips

The key is the fish. You need to get a hold of good tender, but firm, white flesh fish. Snapper is nice. Grouper is better. Nothing too dense, but nothing too delicate. I happened upon some red snapper fillets at our local Whole Foods for this round of tacos, and for once, it didn’t cost me a mortgage at the check out line. Beer batter is my favorite way to fry it up. I’ve tried the batter with milk (when I was out of beer) and the flavor is decidedly “meh” in comparison. Look, I don’t even drink beer, but I love the beer batter.

adding pale ale to the mix

dipping the fish

One of the reasons I used to fear deep frying was that I could never tell how hot the oil was. I just figured anything hot enough to burn me was hot. It wasn’t until I began to play with caramelized sugar that understood the varying degrees of hot. It is, after all, physics. That said, a good candy thermometer will take the mystery out of hot sugar and hot oil. When frying up the fishies, just remember that overcrowding the pot will bring that temperature down too low and your frying will be compromised. So slap a candy thermometer onto that pot of oil and keep one eye on the mercury.

fried to flaky, golden perfection

When you remove the fish from the oil (I use tongs or chopsticks), set the pieces on a cooling rack rather than on a bed of paper towels. I learned this trick from Amy who in turn learned this trick at her amazing CIA (Culinary Institute of America) boot camp. It keeps fried things crispy – and I am ALL ABOUT THE CRISPY.

fish tacos aren’t fish tacos without lime

If I’m feeling particularly naughty, I’ll pan fry a few corn tortillas. If not, then warm corn tortillas will work to wrap around a piece of fish with cabbage, a generous squeeze of lime, cilantro, and salsa.

i’m hearing surf guitar

Fish Tacos
[print recipe]

1 lb. red snapper fillet (or grouper or other delicious firm white fish)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup beer (or milk)
oil for deep frying
corn tortillas
2 cups cabbage, shredded
2 limes, cut into wedges

Slice the fish into 1-inch thick strips. Heat oil in a medium saucepan to 350°F. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Pour in the beer (or milk) and mix until smooth. Dip one piece of fish into the batter and coat. Transfer to hot oil. Repeat with 3 or 4 more pieces and fry until golden (4 minutes or so). Don’t crowd the pot too much or the temperature of the oil will drop too much. Remove the fish from the oil and set on a cooling rack. Serve with warm corn tortillas (or pan fry the tortillas if you’re feeling decadent), cabbage, salsa, and lime.

36 nibbles at “swimmingly”

  1. Manggy says:

    Haha! I’m hearing surf guitar too! Wipe-Out! (okay, there’s no effective way to spell out guitar sounds.)
    My gosh Jen, what’re you doing?! Don’t you know you’re killing Graeme?! Oh well, at least we can enjoy our fish tacos in peace, heh heh :) Truth is, though, I’ve never had a fish taco before. They’re not really popular here (it’s rare enough to find a chicken taco!). Maybe because we love our rice too much. Well, that’s a good reason as any to make them at home, right? ;)
    I’m a little too stingy with the oil, so even when I have a thermometer in, it’s not accurate because the oil is too shallow! Dropping a little bit of the batter and seeing how quickly it turns brown is also a good gauge :) Some Asian chefs just check if the chopsticks bubble when you put it in the oil.

  2. Kitt says:

    Nom nom! I love a good fish taco. Never heard of them before moving West, and thought they sounded horrid until I ate one.

    Quadrille notebooks rule! Har.

  3. Rosa says:

    Wow, those are incredibly tempting tacos! You make me want to try making tacos with fish (instead of meat), next time… Yummy!



  4. peabody says:

    The Gordon’s Fisherman has got nothing on you! Those look awesome.

  5. nina says:

    There is nothing that beats beer-battered “anything”. I have never tried it in a taco, though! This is a fab meal!

  6. Candace says:

    Outrageous! I’m sitting here at 8am… dreaming of fish tacos…

  7. Mary Coleman says:

    I’m on the way to Whole Foods to get some snapper! This looks wonderful. As usual.

  8. Brie says:

    I like to put a sour cream, lime juice and pinch of sugar sauce on mine with a mango salsa!! I love fish tacos!!

  9. Margie says:

    Delicious! I’ve never dared make fish taco’s. I had that fry-fear thing going on within me, but I’m feeling a tad bit more brave. I was thrilled to see that you used the cabbage over lettuce. (Yes, I’ve seen it served with lettuce and hot fish with wilted greenery is not so pretty, nor as satisfying as the crunch factor of the cabbage).
    Once again, enjoyed your story. You lead a fascinating journey through this thing called, Life. Kuddos to those in the frozen tundra. They get ‘forgotten’, but you put them back on the front line.

  10. Amy says:

    Mmm, those look so good! I just finished some soup and now I’m thinking I would have rather had a fish taco. :) Glad to hear you liked the tip about draining on a cooling rack (my instructor would have been proud!) Love the picture of you at the top, too. Thanks for the recipe Jen! :)

  11. Lori says:

    We have the most amazing Mexican restaurant here called Salena’s. The chef was a sous chef to I think Tyler Florence, someone famous anyhow. The man makes amazing things. I have his chef special a lot. When I dont I always go for the fish tacos. Great choice. I just love them. Limes make all the difference, especially if you add a margarita with that!

  12. Patricia Scarpin says:

    I love this hint about using a wrack instead of paper towels – great, Jen!
    That fish look so crisp and delicious – and I never knew one could use them in tacos!

  13. manisha says:

    Cooling rack! What a neat trick! I have always used paper towels.
    That snapper looks so good! Would you believe that I have never bought fresh fish in the US? I need to work up the courage to approach that counter.

  14. tokyoastrogirl says:

    These look better than the ones at Senor Fish, for sure. I love the combo of hot, crispy fish with the cool cabbage and sauce. YUM.

  15. Fiona says:

    Excellent timing! I have three limes sitting here (grown by Yours Truly) that need to be used. And Charles likes fish tacos. And I have a candy thermometer. See how this is perfect?

  16. Mrs Ergül says:

    That is a lot of red snapper you have there! How yummt this fish tacos look! Share your salsa recipe with us poor folks!

  17. Cynthia says:

    I was thinking about that same thing today….I cannot remember the last time I made some of my favorite foods, I do so many new ones. Thats it; chile verde and a pot of beans and sopa de fideos for dinner, and for breakfast the next day after that!

    And Antartica! wow.. my middle daughter is off to Patagonia for research early next year, I thought that was far away…

  18. Mollie says:

    Yum yum!!! I love fish tacos and you have reminded me it’s been too long since we’ve had them! I haven’t done fried tho… looks so yummy! I want to make real fish and chips too…. oh crap, I need to menu plan!! What’s with you and the double shell tho girly? lol

    I love that picture of you and BethBeth! :)

    I’m very exclamatory today…

  19. Anne says:


    I’m at the Cleveland Clinic while my Dad is receiving open heart surgery and starting the recovery. As always your blog is my touchstone helping me stay connected to my other life and love of food and photography. Snow flurries are swirling and fish tacos take me to a warmer place! Thank you!

  20. Leitha says:

    I ran into your blog somewhere and loved it. Made the fish tacos Friday and if I had known it would be so easy I would have done it before! Thanks for the idea and they were the best fish taco’s ever. My husband snarfed them!

  21. jenyu says:

    Mark – poor Graeme :( But he could easily substitute chicken for that fish, don’t you think? :) I can’t believe when you were in So Cal, you didn’t try a fish taco!

    Kitt – same here!

    Rosa – I hope you do. They are *awesome*

    Peabody – ha ha, you are so cute ;)

    Nina – thanks!

    Candace – mmmm, fish tacos….

    Mary – yay!

    Brie – oh, I’d love that, but I have to avoid dairy (yogurt is okay since the bacteria digest the lactose).

    Margie – it’s totally worth the frying – totally.

    Amy – I *loved* the tips you posted on your blog from boot camp! Totally bonus, babe!! Thanks so much :)

    Lori – yessirree!

    Patricia – thank Amy for that one :) I know, I didn’t know until I moved to California. Great ideas they have in Cali :)

    Manisha – I always used paper towels too. Okay, we’ll have to go buy some fish together soon ;)

    Tokyoastrogirl – isn’t it great?

    Fiona – I think it’s a sign, love.

    Mrs. E – oh hon, I buy Trader Joes salsa! Now you’re making me feel guilty ;)

    Cynthia – Patagonia is pretty far, but Antarctica is remote for other reasons.

    Mollie – I’ve only ever had fish tacos fried. Hmmm, perhaps I should try the healthier grilled version? Nah!!! hee hee. I like the double shell because single shell sometimes breaks if I add too much salsa ;)

    Anne – I hope your dad makes a full recovery and is doing better. Surgery (in my opinion) sucks. Sending you good juju.

    Leitha – woohoo!!!

  22. White On Rice Couple says:

    Jen Yu!!! We see you!!!! We miss you!!!! You look great chica!!!
    OMG, how long has it been? Like months since we’ve visited?!! We just got newer, faster internet speed, so now we can visit you again in high speed, baby!! (your blog took forever to load on our dial up speed).

    We’re back, yeah!! Feels so good to be back home here and catch up with all that you’ve been up to. Geez! We’ll be here for the next couple of hours, OK? Ummm….got any snacks for us while we hang out here? :D

    How bout some of those awesome fish taco’s? Beer too, puleeeze! We’ll be permanent blog house guests for a while….

  23. Y says:

    Mmm.. fishy goodness. Nevermind the tacos, pass me some chips to go with that great looking fish, and I’m happy :D

  24. sweetbird says:

    Just as a point of interest, ‘meh’ was recently added to the Collins English Dictionary. I now bask in the hipness of my apathetic vernacular.

  25. Melissa says:

    Sorry I’m running a little late here, but I am ALL about the fish tacos!! One of my favorite foods, hands down. I moved to SoCal 11 years ago and tried them after a couple of years… the best. I think beer rather than milk fries them right, at least in my experience. That snapper looks BEAUTIFUL.

    And I totally hear you about incorporating new recipes every week. Tonight I did something old and practiced though and it was such a relief. ;)

  26. DivaDivine says:

    Me love fish tacos. mmm. :P

  27. jenyu says:

    WoRC – Oh you guys don’t have to worry about visiting here – I know you’re uber busy. It’s cool. I’ve been busy too and totally haven’t been around to my normal blogs either :( When are you coming out to visit? :)

    Y – yeah, I have to say it’s the fish that makes the dish!

    Sweetbird – cool.

    Melissa – I definitely prefer the beer to the milk in the batter.

    DivaDivine – me too!!

  28. Luney says:

    I’ve always reacted with a “wait, whut?” when confronted with fish tacos. I don’t know why, but the name conjures to mind iffy taco stands on the East Side that sell Pepto on the side (because you’ll need it). Not to mention my friend’s mother and aunt who, every time they hit the county fair, they MUST have fish tacos even after all of those fair rides…. Maybe it stems from my abject fear of fish and my love-hate relationship with fried food. But you have made me decidedly more open-minded with URB. I even know where Senor Fish is, so I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for the eye-opener!

  29. jenyu says:

    Luney – well, it may not be for everyone, but I quite love these fish tacos :)

  30. KARINA says:

    for the batter if there anything to use besides milk and beer?

  31. jenyu says:

    KARINA – I suppose you could try water?

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  34. BrevilleJE900 says:

    Your fish tacos looks delicious. I will impress my girlfriend with this recipe. Thanks a lot :)

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  36. scott says:

    have looked and ‘favorite’ many of the recipes,like reading about how the recipes are thought about and presented,i used to cook in the industry many years ago,you remind me of me,keep it honest,simple,with love and go for broke. the results end up turning out fab’lus.

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