"When I visited Ensenada and the Baja coast of Mexico I learnt the fundamentals of this memorable dish and, trust me, there is nothing like it! The secret is choosing the right fish, great crunchy batter, zingy slaw and flavour-packed sauce. But, for the health-conscious, remember they don't have to be fried; grilled fish tacos are great too." ~ Paul Wilson.
Sunflower oil or rice bran oil for deep-frying
400 g (14 oz) firm white fish, such as snapper, blue-eye trevalla, monkfish, grouper, wahoo, black bass or lemon sole, cut into approximately 40 g (1 1/2 oz) strips
12 small homemade masa flour tortillas or store-bought tortillas
10 g (1/4 oz) fresh yeast
250 ml (8 1/2 fl oz/1 cup) pale ale
1/2 tsp white vinegar
150 g (5 1/2 oz/1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for coating
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of saffron powder
175 g (6 oz) chipotle chilli in adobo sauce, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Sea salt to taste
150 g (5 1/2 oz/2 cups) very finely shredded savoy or napa cabbage
75 g (2 3/4 oz/1 cup) finely shredded red cabbage
1 small fennel bulb, thinly shaved
4 breakfast radishes, thinly sliced
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 large handful flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, roughly shredded
150 ml (5 fl oz) Zesty lime dressing
Sea salt to taste
Crumble the yeast into a bowl, add the ale and vinegar and stir to dissolve.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt, sugar and saffron powder together. Make a well in the centre, pour in the yeast mixture and whisk well to combine, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Cover with a clean tea towel (dish towel) and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes until the batter is aerated and increased in size.
Whisk the aioli, chipotle in adobo sauce and lime juice together in a medium bowl. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Season with salt and refrigerate until required.
Combine the cabbage, fennel and radish in a medium bowl, cover with damp paper towel and refrigerate until required. Keep the onion and parsley in separate bowls until ready to serve.
Half-fill a large heavy-based saucepan with oil, set over medium heat and heat the oil to 180°C (350°F).
Dredge the fish in flour, coat in the batter and fry in batches, for 2–3 minutes, until golden. Remove using a slotted spoon or tongs and place on paper towel to drain.
Heat a medium non-stick frying pan over high heat. Lightly spray with oil and briefly fry the tortillas to warm them. Stack the tortillas, wrap them in a warm damp tea towel (dish towel) and set aside to keep warm.
Combine the slaw ingredients, add the lime dressing and toss. Season with salt.
Re-fry the fish for 1–2 minutes, until crisp, golden and cooked through.
To serve, place the tortillas onto serving plates, drizzle with the chipotle mayo and adobo sauce and top with a little of the slaw and a piece of crispy fish. Drizzle with a little more of the sauces. Serve with napkins, ice cold beer or chilled riesling.
Credits: This is an edited extract from Taqueria by Paul Wilson published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $AU40 and is available in stores nationally.
Photo Credits: Photographer: © Chris Middleton.