The first time I ever heard of fish tacos, way back when I was a picky eater, I thought they sounded really weird and like something I would never eat.
I pictured fish covered with taco spices and topped with lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. Totally unappealing.
I’ve learned a lot of things about fish tacos since then. Number one being none of those traditional taco spices are involved. Thank goodness. Instead, strips of cod are beer-battered (or club soda-battered) and fried until light, flaky and crispy.
They’re nestled in corn tortillas and topped with a creamy tangy slaw traditionally made of cabbage. I used rainbow carrots instead, with beautiful shades of orange and yellow dressed in a sweet and tangy dressing made of mayo, honey, mustard and a tiny bit of the pickling juice.
The pickling juice comes from the quick pickled red onions. They’re made with vinegar, a little bit of sugar, salt and lime juice. They add a bite to the tacos that cuts right through the richness of the fried fish and the fattiness in the white sauce and cole slaw, making all the flavor come alive.
The white sauce takes all of two seconds to make by whisking sour cream, mayonnaise and more lime juice together.
I wish someone had enlightened me years ago to what a fish taco was really all about.
If they had just called them fried fish tacos I might not have been so quick to rebuke them.
Now, in a complete turnaround, I refer to them as little bundles of joy because that’s exactly what they are.
- Pickled Onions:
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 fresh jalapeños chiles, thinly sliced into rings
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Cole Slaw:
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon pickling liquid from the onions
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups shredded organic carrots (use a mix of orange and yellow)
- Sour Cream Sauce:
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 + 1/4 pounds skinless whitefish fillets like cod, haddock, or halibut, cut crosswise into 4 by 1-inch strips
- salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup beer or club soda
- vegetable or canola oil, for frying
- about 10 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed
- 1 cup cilantro, optional, for serving
For the Onions:
Toss the onions and jalapeños together in a medium, heat-proof bowl. To a small saucepan add the vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Pour the vinegar over the onions and let them sit for at least 30 minutes. You can make them up to 2 days ahead of time. After 30 minutes refrigerate.
For the Cole Slaw:
In a medium bowl whisk the mayo, honey, mustard, pickling juice, salt and pepper together. Add the carrots and toss well. Cover and refrigerate.
For the Sauce:
Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
For the Fish:
Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt together. Add the beer or club soda and whisk until smooth.
Add about 3/4-inch oil to a Dutch oven or large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat to 340 - 350 degrees F.
Work in batches until all the fish is cooked. Add 4 or 5 pieces to the batter, one at a time remove the fish from the batter, allow excess to drip off and carefully add it to the hot oil.
Cook until golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Drain fish on a wire rack or paper towel lined cutting board.
To serve put one or two pieces into each tortilla, top with cole slaw, pickled onions, sauce and a few cilantro leaves.