When I was working in Santa Monica, fish tacos were a staple at lunchtime. The great thing is that there’s no shortage of places in Southern California, like Sharkee’s, to get some great tacos. While each place has their own preferred fish, these baja tilapia fish tacos are the closest way to get that authentic flavor with a widely available fish.
What is an authentic fish taco?
Purists will note that I’ve made some modifications from what one might call a true baja-style (as opposed to a cabo fish taco which involves grilled fish instead) to make these healthy-ish fish tacos.
First, the fish in baja tacos is usually halibut or mahi-mahi, is beer battered and then fried. I’ve opted for a pan fry with lightly floured fish instead. I also go with tilapia for the fish since it’s widely available, more affordable and eaily cooked.
Though, come summertime, when the grill is back out, I totally intend to make these grilled baja fish tacos….
(If you’re wondering about the sustainability of Mahi Mahi, and other seafood, Seafood Watch is a great starting point to research updated information on fish stocks and catching methods.)
The second defining element of the fish taco is the cream sauce that’s drizzled over the fish. It really is delicious. However, the two top ingredients are mayonnaise and Mexican crema (a tangier sour cream variant). In place of the cream sauce, I suggest either slices of avocado or guacamole.
Finally, there’s the cabbage. Green cabbage is traditional, though I’ve opted for red cabbage instead. Mainly because I think it has a better flavor. Plus there’s the benefit of it having slightly more Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Iron than it’s green counterpart. Shred the cabbage very finely with a box grater and toss it with lime juice, salt and pepper.
Building out a Baja Tilapia Fish Taco Bar
When making these tilapia fish tacos for my family, I like to do it “taco bar” style where all of the ingredients are out on the counter for people to pick and choose what they want.
The other key ingredients to have are cilantro, fresh lime juice, red onion and tomato. To me, cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime are must haves. They both bring a brightness and freshness that’s irreplaceable.
And of course, guacamole. Tacos just aren’t tacos without chips and guac. See this recipe for how I make guacamole and homemade tortilla chips
One word about salsa. I’m not a big fan of it on the fish tacos unless it’s used immediately before eating. Why? It leaves you with soggy tortillas. In the time it takes to eat the first taco, your second taco will be a fall-apart mess. That’s great for pulled pork, not so much for handheld tacos.
And finally, what if you want to give a lot of options and have steak tacos as well? This cilantro and garlic rubbed skirt steak chopped up or even these chimichurri marinated steak skewers would be fun to have in addition to the baja tilapia fish tacos.
Featured on: Disney’s Babble.com, May 2013, 15 Tilapia Recipes you Gotta Try!
- 2 pieces Tilapia
- 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 cup Purple Cabbage shredded
- 2 Avocados
- 2 Limes 1 juiced, 1 cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup Red Onion finely chopped
- 2 Plum Tomatoes seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup Shredded Cheese
- 1/2 cup Cilantro
- Place a small amount of cooking oil in a pan over medium heat
- Season the fish with the Old Bay and lightly dredge it in flour
- Cook the fish, 3-5 minutes per side (depending on thickness) to get a nicely browned coating
- Let the fish rest for a few minutes and either shred with a fork or cut into pieces
- Toss the cabbage with the juice of 1 lime, salt and pepper
- In separate bowls, place the cheese, tomatoes, avocado, onion, cabbage, cilantro and fish for plating
- Garnish with lime and enjoy with a Dos Equis or Pacifico