One of my favorite fish tacos is served at a place called Spencer Makenzie’s in Ventura California. A small joint near the coast, they offer up parmesan crusted hard-shell tacos, cream cheese and shrimp wontons, the always intriguing and delicious ahi pocket, and their famous giant fish tacos. I always get the fried fish taco which comes in a flour tortilla with cabbage, bell peppers, cilantro, lemon, and their house-made sauce. It’s huge and never disappoints. This recipe is by no means anything like theirs…I just wanted to tell you all about it. Because it’s delicious and I want one.
I find myself thinking of it time and again; a crunchy tempura fish taco with a creamy sauce, a splash of lemon, and crisp veggies. It has been far too long since I made tacos—let alone fish tacos (Simon hates fish she mumbled pointedly). I had some leftover cod fillets in the freezer from another recipe so stars aligning and all that, I went to work. This was one of those use-what-you-have-on-hand recipes as I am often determined to avoid leaving the house. If I’d bother to I could have bought some flour tortillas which would have been they perfect vehicle for all my toppings, but corn did just fine in this recipe.
My ideal fish taco has some sort of mild battered and fried fish, a creamy component, an acidic component, and occasionally a bit of vinegar. You definitely need some crunch from cabbage as well. I have a great go-to beer batter recipe that I like to use. Seasoned with turmeric and garlic powder it gives great but not overwhelming flavor to your fish.
For the creamy component I made a blood orange and habanero hot sauce crema. I love the hot sauces from Formosa, and the heat from their habanero blend along with the mild crema and sweet citrus made for a pretty sauce full of balanced flavor. I also decided to make some basil and cilantro chimichurri and made a simple slaw with thinly sliced cabbage and shallots. The pomegranate seeds were also leftover from a drink recipe and I thought they’d be a nice tart touch.
These tacos admittedly had a lot of flavors going on but as seems to be the case with my unplanned endeavors in the kitchen—they came out great and very balanced. My only real regret is the lack of a flour tortilla. But there is always next time. Besides I think a recipe for a giant fish taco is long overdue on this blog.
How do you like your fish tacos? Got any new recipes for me to try? Leave a comment below!
- For the Chimichurri Slaw
- 2 cups basil leaves
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
- ½ tp. Chili garlic sauce, optional
- Juice from one lime
- 1 Tbsp. minced shallot
- Salt and pepper
- 4 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. sugar
- For the Blood Orange Crema
- ½ cup Mexican crema
- 2 Tbsp. Formosa Habanero Sauce
- 2 Tbsp. blood orange juice
- 1 Tbsp. lime juice
- Pinch of salt
- For the Fish Tacos
- 1 lb. mild white fish like snapper or cod
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 ½ Tbsp. corn starch
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 3/4 cup beer, I like an IPA
- About 8 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- 8-16 corn tortillas (16 if you want to double wrap the tacos since they are bit messy and overflowing)
- Make the Chimichurri Slaw
- Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until well-combined and finely chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl mix chimichurri with cabbage, shallots, and sugar. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Make the Blood Orange Crema
- Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Make the Fish Tacos
- Remove any bones or skin from the fish and slice into 8 taco-sized portions.
- In a medium bowl, mix flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and turmeric. Whisk in beer until batter is lump free. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large, heavy bottom pot. If possible, use a deep-fry thermometer to heat and maintain oil to 350°F. Or use a deep fryer.
- Prepare a drying rack or plate with paper towels.
- When oil is ready, dip fish in batter and carefully place straight in pot or deep fryer, frying in batches of 3 or 4. You don’t want to crowd the pot. Do not pre-dip fish! Put it straight from the batter into the oil!
- Fry fish for about 5 minutes, or until golden, crispy, and cooked through. Place on prepared rack/plate to drain excess oil.
- Meanwhile, heat tortillas in the microwave for 20-30 seconds until warm OR grill them on your gas burner one at a time—this is my preferred method!
- Serve tacos with a slaw, crispy fish, a drizzle of crema, and some pomegranate seeds. Have a few extra lime wedges handy if desired.