Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fish tacos

Since I had so much pico from Monday's salsapalooza, it became clear that making fish tacos would be on the agenda this weekend. I've only made fish tacos for two or more people in the past, but given that my roommate is out of town, I had to suck it up and make a batch for just me. A month or two ago, I did the first fry of a double-fry process for the fish. After the first fry, I wrapped the fish in bundles, which I froze. Because the fish is fried twice, it works out beautifully frying up a whole big batch, freezing it in smaller portions, and then frying as much as you for a second time when you're ready to eat. Come noon today, I was ready to eat.

I found a recipe online (I think it was in a newspaper, but I don't know where I found it on the web!) for Rubio's fish tacos, which I've tweaked to meet my needs. For example, I use tilapia instead of the fish recommended in the recipe. The recipe calls for Mexican oregano, but I've never put it in. It's a long recipe, but it's a good one. Below are instructions on making the fish as well as a couple different sauces. After making this recipe, my brother text messaged me saying that the tacos were "fucking unreal." Quite the endorsement!

Rubio's Fish Tacos


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried crumbled Mexican oregano
Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
12 ounces (1 bottle) cold beer, plus more if needed to thin batter
2 pounds firm, meaty fish, such as farmed catfish, skinned, boned
Freshly squeezed lime juice, preferably fro
Mexican limes or key limes
Vegetable oil for deep frying


Corn tortillas, warmed
Diced avocado
Lime wedges, preferably Mexican limes or key limes
Secret Sauce (mayonnaise-based sauce), see recipe
Salsa de Chiles de Arbol, see recipe, or store-bought bottled hot sauce
Pico de Gallo, see recipe, or store-bough
Finely shredded green cabbage
Optional: Chopped white onion


1. Prepare batter: Whisk together flour, baking powder, garlic, cayenne, mustard, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper until well blended. Stir in beer until there are no lumps. Batter may be made several hours ahead and refrigerated.

2. Cut fish into pieces the size and shape of your index finger. Sprinkle with few drops of fresh lime juice and a little salt. Pour oil into deep, wide pan to depth of 2 inches and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Use a deep-fry thermometer to test temperature or test heat by dropping a little batter into oil. It should bounce to surface almost immediately and be surrounded by little bubbles.

3. Pat fish dry with paper towels. Check thickness of batter by dipping in one piece of fish. Batter should be consistency of medium-thick pancake batter, coating fish easily but dripping very little. Add a little beer if batter seems too thick.

4. Add fish to batter. Using tongs or wooden chopsticks, swish each piece to make sure it is thoroughly coated, then lift it out of batter, let it drip once and place fish gently into hot oil. Cook a few pieces at a time until they float and batter is set but still very light in color. Note that if a piece sticks to bottom, leave it alone and it will release itself.

5. Remove fish to rack set on a rimmed baking sheet to drain; reserve frying oil. Fish can be prepared ahead to this point, cooled on rack and refrigerated uncovered up to 24 hours. Cool oil and reserve.

6. When ready to serve, reheat oil to 350-360 degrees. Refry fish, a few pieces at a time until crisp and golden brown.

7. To serve, hold a warm tortilla in your hand and spread a few avocado cubes onto it. Top with fish, squeezing lime on top. Drizzle with Secret Sauce and a few drops of arbol sauce or store-bought hot sauce. Top with pico de gallo and shredded cabbage. Top with cilantro and, if desired, some extra-white onions.

Nutritional information (per taco): Calories 170 (52 percent from fat), protein 5.1 g, carbohydrates 15.2 g, fat 9.8 g (saturated 3.0 g), cholesterol 80 mg

Source: Recipe adapted from "Baja Cooking on the Edge" by Deborah Schneider

Secret Sauce

Yield: about 2/3 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons water or milk


1. Place mayonnaise in bowl and slowly add vinegar to taste, stirring constantly with a fork. Add water or milk, stirring constantly with fork. Mixture should be consistency of thick cream. Add just a little bit to each fish taco.

Nutritional information (per 1/2 teaspoon): Calories 30 (78 percent from fat), protein 0.7 g, carbohydrates 1.1 g, fat 2.6 g (saturated 1.5 g), cholesterol 15 mg, sodium 35 mg, fiber 0 g

Salsa de Chiles de Árbol

Yield: 1/2 cup

1 large garlic clove, unpeeled
1 cup dried chiles de árbol (about 30 chiles), stems removed

3. Scoop up the tomatoes and cilantro and put them on top of onions; chop until ingredients are finely chopped and blended together. Scoop (including juices) into bowl. Add salt and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Allow to sit 30 minutes for flavors to meld.

* * *

Here is a step-by-step of assembling the perfect fish taco. Well, it's a pretty stuffed fish taco, so maybe one piece of fish instead of two would do. Regardless, it gives you an idea of what you should be aiming for...

Plain corn tortilla... "Secret Sauce"... some crunchy fish...

...add some shredded cabbage...

...and top w/some salsa. Although, ideally, I'd add a final squirt of lime.



Brother Dear said...

Confirmed: This recipe is the shit.

Use Fat Tire or even Guinness Draught. You will be happy.

Pablo said...

I SOooooo appreciate your passion for the amazing goodness that is Rubio's. I grew up in San Diego, lived there until I was 35 and then moved to a place with NO Rubio's. I crave these things at least weekly.

I moved from the Northwest to the Southeast and STILL no Rubio's. In South Florida, you won't find much in the way of Fish Tacos.

By the way, the white sauce is made with half plain yogurt and half mayo. I'm sure your version tastes great, but the real deal uses the yogurt/mayo combo.

I have the entire recipe on my blog. Check it out. Oh, and make up a batch of their amazing smokey hot sauce to cap off a wonderful fish taco (or anything, really).