Showstopping Fish Taco recipe

Plump and crispy Monkfish, pineapple salsa, corn tortillas and Sriracha Mayo!

Let me get something out the way before I get into this recipe. Firstly, I do not claim this to be an authentic Mexican recipe, but I do, however, claim that this is my approximation of a classic Californian fish taco (Tacos de Pescado)...with a twist. Fusion food, perhaps? Call it what you will.

In the UK, nine times out of ten, if you were to ask the average Joe to explain what a taco is and what combination of ingredients make up a taco. You will probably get the following answer - "A crunchy ellipsis shaped shell, a bit like a large folded Dorito filled with spicy ground beef and topped with sour cream and cheese". This is not a wrong answer, of course, this is a thing. This style or version of the taco is a derivative of a popular Mexican street food. I am not sure on the exact etymology of the word "taco", I can only assume that it is a Mexican'ism of a Spanish word to describe the shape of it. I would suggest looking it up on Wikipedia or if you are really inclined, maybe some culinary history books? I digress, the keywords are "street food", meaning, it is to be eaten on the streets, using your hands, cheap and ultimately a messy affair.

As with many fast foods from some of the more notable giants of the fast food world - McDonald's and Burger King etc. The modern or popularised style of the taco was actually birthed around the same time by way of convenience and innovation in the 1950s. Some essential names to mention here, Glen Bell (entrepreneur and founder of Taco Tia and later on Taco Bell), Richard and Maurice James McDonald (founders of McDonalds and inventors of the "Speedee Service System"). Coincidentally, these people, all from San Bernardino California in the late 1940's/50's, came up with very similar concepts which today we now call "fast food".

Yellow corn Taco shells
Hard Taco Shells

but that's not to say that I don't occasionally like the crispy yellow explosion and hot beef in and around my face.

Although there is some dispute of the origins, Glen Bell popularised a device which allowed you to deep fry multiple corn tortillas at once, and ultimately increasing the number of tacos they could produce at any one time. In my opinion, this way of making a taco is a bastardisation of what a taco is, but that's not to say that I don't occasionally like the crispy yellow explosion and hot beef in and around my face. They have their place.

Multi Taco Fryer Basket

That being said and swiftly moving on, I just thought I would give you a little context and history as to how the crunchy/hard shell taco came about.

Now, let's get to it - Fish Tacos! This is one of those recipes that when you taste it, It makes you want to do a little dance, hire a mariachi band and slam a few tequilas...well maybe not tequila slammers, probably a margarita at most. My fondness for the "soft" tortilla and more importantly, the corn tortilla is unparalleled compared to the crunchy type. The flavour and texture for me are what its all about, aroma and flavour is part and parcel, the earthy and slightly alkaline aroma, somehow, makes it seem more real and organic compared to a flour or crunchy tortilla. Another thing to mention, the "all" corn tortilla is excellent if you are gluten intolerant or have a gluten sensitivity.

In the UK, when you go to a supermarket or grocery store, for the most part, you only have three options for tortillas. The taco shell type (usually sold in "make it your self kits"), flour tortillas (small, large, white, whole wheat, organic etc., the list is endless) or some that are a mix of corn and wheat, marketed for that "Authentic Mexican taste". Recently, however, I am noticing that more supermarkets (mainly Sainsbury's) are introducing an all corn tortilla, yes, the real deal - well as close as it gets. You may have heard of the brand, Old Elpaso? Well, they have a relatively new product branded as "Mexicana Street Market" all corn tortillas. How long these will stay on the shelves is another question, I often find myself wondering, why is it that just when I find something I like, it disappears? Sainsbury's supermarket is the only place I regularly see them but make sure you don't blink because you will inevitably and undoubtingly miss them.

Old El Paso "Mexicana Street Market" corn tortillas in packaging

"Why not just make your own"? When I can't get ready-made store-bought corn tortillas, that's precisely what I do! The caveat to that is, to make corn tortillas you need Masa Harina which to the best of my knowledge is only available in the UK in specialised world food stores (where its imported) or online. Never the less and thank the Gods, where would we be without I buy the branded Meseca Masa Harina which is basically a ground corn flour after the corn has been nixtamalized. The recipe for making tortillas using masa couldn't be more straightforward, you just add water and a pinch of salt, knead into a dough, roll out (or use a tortilla press) and cook in a dry frying pan or griddle.

For this recipe I highly recommend trying masa corn tortillas if you can, it really does make a difference. There are hundreds of fish taco recipes out there, what makes this particular recipe a little different is the spice rub/dry brine on the monkfish. The ground coriander seeds work in harmony with any citrus and the salt firms up the fish, so you get a nice meaty bite. The cumin adds that all familiar warming note to the dish and in my opinion, any Mexican inspired recipe would not be the same without it.

With any fried or spicy food, you really want to impart a little freshness and acidity to cut through the fats and spices. The pineapple salsa in this recipe does exactly that. You may notice that I have not included any coriander/cilantro herb in this dish. Not even as a garnish! Reason being, I am one of those unfortunate people who have an aversion to it. Trust me when I say that I have tried and tried many times to like it, but every time I do, it still tastes like a dead bug marinated in soap. When I see a recipe that calls for coriander, I usually substitute for flat leaf parsley or simply just leave it out.

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Hope you enjoy and let me know if you try it...

Brynley Jones

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