I was traveling alone. And perhaps it was the way I people-watched, or wrote in my journal; the manager decided I was a restaurant critic from the New York Times. He took great interest in what I ate, and brought me sample sizes of many different dishes. I recall my intrigue as he presented the soft tacos filled with cubed meat instead of the American taco bastardization of crispy shells filled with ground meat. This was a revelation.
Several years later, the discovery of crispy fish tacos was less unexpected, but more satisfying. The taco shells were still prepared of soft corn flour, but instead the filling was crispy fish chunks topped with shredded cabbage, onions and thinned, seasoned sour cream, with nary a hint of cheese. This style of tacos made their way north into the US from Baja California via San Diego.
On the other side of Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea, a different style of fish taco has evolved… the fish is cubed and marinated, more like a ceviche, and grilled in banana leaf or griddled plain.
With visions of turquoise waters and azure blue skies, these tacos are paradise on a plate. Equally authentic, but a distant relative of the tacos from Lucy’s.
1 lb. grouper fillets, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tbs. soy sauce
2 tbs. lime juice
1 chipotle pepper (packed in adobo), minced
1 tbs. oil
1 ½ cups ripe papaya diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
2 tbs. cilantro
1 tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup cilantro leaves (and stems)
Corn tortillas and romaine lettuce
1. For the fish: combine fish with soy, lime and chipotle. Let marinade for 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, combine ingredients for papaya salsa. Set aside.
3. In a food processor, combine cilantro and mayonnaise. Process until the mayo is bright green and smooth.
4. Turn oven to 400. Put corn tortillas on a sheet tray. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Warm in oven until warm, soft and pliable, approximately 5 minutes. Set aside in a warm spot
5. While tortillas are warming, Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil. Add the fish and cook for 3 minutes.
6. Put two tortillas on a plate. Top with fish cubes, papaya salsa and cilantro aioli. Garnish with lettuce.
I'm submitting this recipe to Joan of Foodalouge's Culinary Tour of South America. To see a round-up of Mexican recipes, click on her blog.