Two years ago we packed our snorkel gear and headed to Baja California, Mexico. The fish put on quite a circus. A swirl of polka dots and iridescent stripes greeted us as soon as we entered the water.
The Baja is also famous for another kind of fish marvel: the fish taco. It originated there, probably before the Spanish arrived. We sought out the best fish tacos in every town we passed through. The Los Claros restaurants won hands down as Baja’s best. We made triply sure by visiting all three—in Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and San Jose del Cabo.
Los Claros believes in giving you options. They batter-fry or grill fish while you watch, then deliver it on either corn or flour tortillas. But the real fun starts at the huge all-you-can-scoop toppings and hot-sauce bar. There you can pile on pico de gallo, grilled onions and green peppers, light chipotle sauce, spicy dark chipotle sauce, fried jalapeños, shredded cabbage, guacamole salsa, corn salsa, cukes, limes—I lost track. With all those choices, no two tacos are identical.
I don’t mean to make this a restaurant review. But Los Claros taught me that when it comes to fish tacos, just about anything goes.
That’s what my sister-in-law Chris says, too. She masterfully messes with recipes to suit her taste and what’s in her kitchen (except when she makes her perfect French pastries and amazing heirloom cakes).
She gave me her super-easy, use-what-you-like recipe for fish tacos that are every bit as delicious as the best of the Baja. It calls for griddling the fish in the barbecue (for a little smoky flavor) or on the stovetop. I prefer stovetop for convenience. In either case, the fish gets a nice light crust. Her quick marinade must do something to keep the inside moist and flaky. The secret ingredient (Worcestershire sauce!) with all that umami thrills my taste buds to the point that I don’t miss the deep-frying at all. As a fried-fish-a-holic, that’s saying something.
With just minimal toppings, it pushes all the right buttons. It’s both tender and crunchy. The chipotle sauce makes it fiery, cool, smoky and citrusy. Simply put, it’s a spectacular fish taco.
But if you want more toppings, feel free to heap on pico de gallo, avocado, pineapple salsa or whatever you want. Splash on your favorite hot sauce. Whatever floats your boat. Chris says there are no rules, and the best restaurant in the Baja would agree.
Chris’s Fish Tacos Fabuloso
- 1 2/3 pounds firm white fish (cod, mahi mahi, or whatever you like)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ cup all purpose flour, or more as needed, for dredging
- Canola, grapeseed, or other oil for sautéing
- Thinly shredded cabbage (I like savoy)
- Corn tortillas (or flour if you prefer)
- Chopped cilantro to garnish
Chipotle Sauce (ingredients and quantities to taste)
- Plain yogurt, sour cream, mayo, or a combination to make about ½ cup (Chris says, “Empty your containers.”)
- Minced scallion
- Minced cilantro
- Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (Note: This comes in a small can. You won’t need much, so freeze what’s leftover in a labeled plastic container for the next few batches of tacos.)
- Freshly squeezed lime juice
- Tabasco (if you like, and if the sauce isn’t already too hot)
- On a cutting board, with a large knife, mash garlic and kosher salt to form a paste. Put into a medium bowl and mix in Worcestershire sauce.
- Cut fish into large pieces and toss with the marinade. Let sit about 20 minutes. The fish is ready to cook when it starts to give off some of its moisture (there’s not a lot of marinade relative to the fish).
- While you wait, make the chipotle sauce. Start with the yogurt, sour cream, mayo or whatever you have. Then spoon in a little of the canned chipotle pepper and adobo sauce, tasting as you add more to make sure you’ve got the desired heat. Add rest of sauce ingredients and adjust to taste.
- Put flour in a plastic bag and toss in the fish, a few chunks at a time. Shake to coat. Put coated fish onto a plate.
- Heat oil on a large griddle either on the stovetop or grill. Add fish and let sizzle a couple of minutes until brown. Turn and sauté on the other side until just done. Remove from griddle onto a serving platter.
- Use one or two warmed tortillas per taco. Top with fish, shredded cabbage, chipotle sauce, chopped cilantro and more fresh lime juice. Optional: pico de gallo, salsa, avocado, hot sauces—whatever floats your boat. As Chris says, “There are no rules.”