While San Diego is one of the few destination spots for Mexican food in our great country, there is no other dish that locals would pride themselves on more than the perfect fish taco. In fact, according to fish taco legend, Ralph Rubio, after experiencing fish tacos on a trip to Mexico, set up shop in 1983 specifically to introduce San Diego to the dish.
Going way back
Of course, the fish taco has a much richer and deeper history than the past 27 years. The fish taco seems to have appeared first in small fishing towns in Mexico. As far back as the 1500s, the local fishermen would take their fresh catch, wrap it in a thick, home-ground corn tortilla, and dig in.
In our modern times, Ensenada, Mexico touts itself as being the origination of the fish taco as we know it — fried or grilled, wrapped in a warm tortilla, and possibly topped with some cabbage and salsa. Simple ingredients are used so that the fish can take center stage, showing off its fresh flavors, as it was typically caught just hours before being served.
It didn’t take long before the fish taco was brought the short distance over the border and into San Diego. Our city is well known for its laid-back surfer dude attitude, and the fish taco is a perfect complement to that lifestyle. While our great city has grown in size as well as industry over the last 30 years, the fish taco remains a staple for our diet, with almost every restaurant and eatery offering its take on this special dish.
A finger on the pulse of San Diego
At Great News! Discount Cookware and Cooking School there is no shortage of opinions about the taco. Our store and cooking school staff take great pride in offering up buzz-worthy chefs, personal chefs, and the hottest restaurateurs to our students. With our finger on the pulse of the city, we are able to gain insight into the best places to experience fish tacos. But experiencing the ultimate fish taco is quite subjective.
I have ventured out into the city’s most popular venues; spent quality time in my kitchen, forcing friends and husband to eat endless tacos; and sampled a home-chef’s personal best. As a San Diegan who has quite a love affair with our local dish, I approached the task of finding the perfect recipe with ferocity and excitement.
It was my job to eat my favorite food at some of the best places the city has to offer. I am sure not only that Great News! is bringing you a gem of a recipe, but that you will rave at its deliciousness, as well. I am also almost positive that I need a break from the tacos … for now.
First time’s a charm
My first tasting happened as if designed by the gods. A family member of mine, Davo, just happens to be the best home chef that I know. My husband and I were invited over for a small family dinner of — yes, you guessed it — fish tacos. Boy did he deliver the goods. The recipe was unique yet traditional in preparation.
The fish was a flaky, light, crisp beer batter, and the tortillas were crisp and not crunchy. This was the best taco I had ever had in my life. I wondered how this man was a member of my family and yet I’d had no clue these tacos were in his arsenal. When I asked him about it, he said this was his best kept secret. He only makes them a couple of times a year as a treat for those of us privileged enough to secure an invite.
I kept looking, and nothing beat Davo’s
After I’d eaten three tacos and a handful of chips served with homemade guacamole and pico de gallo, my husband rolled me into the car while I decided this taco would set the bar for my adventure. But could there be a better fish taco in San Diego?
For me, the answer is no. After two months of investigation, after countless dollars spent on Taco Tuesday, swanky restaurants, and the fast food legend, Rubio’s, my first taco reigned supreme, as Alton Brown would say. My hope is that you will download the following recipe today, prepare it at home, and bask in its glory.
Davo’s Fish Tacos
- 2 fillets orange roughy
- 4 vine-ripened tomatoes
- 1 large onion
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 lime
- 1 head purple cabbage
- 1 head green cabbage
- 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
- 12 corn tortillas
- ranch dressing
- Chili’s Hot Sauce
- 6 cups Crisco shortening (liquid) or vegetable oil
- 1¾ cups flour
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- In electric wok, pour Crisco oil. Cover and heat on high, allowing oil to reach 350°F.
- Dice tomatoes and onion, and chop cilantro. Combine in bowl, adding lime juice to taste. Set aside, covered, in refrigerator.
- Shred cabbage into 2- to 3-inch thick strips and set aside.
- Cut fillets into strips ½ inch thick by 3 inches long.
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and dredge fish. Remove fish from dry mix and set aside.
- Take remaining dry mix and add ¼ cup lemon juice and 1 cup oil. Whisk in 12 ounces of beer until the batter falls off whisk in thin ribbons. (Batter should be similar to thin pancake mix.)
- Test temperature of the heated oil. We recommend that you toss a very small piece of tortilla into the oil and look for the oil to immediately fry the piece — it should not sink. At this point, coat each piece of fish in the wet batter and place into the heated oil. Be careful not to crowd the fish in the oil, as temperature will drop too far to properly fry the fish.
- Fish takes about two minutes to cook, floating up to the top of the oil as it fries. Flip the fish to allow for even cooking of the batter as it turns a golden brown. Place cooked fish on paper towels to drain, salt lightly, and, if needed, keep warm in oven set at 250°F.
- For the tortillas, heat either vegetable or canola in a 8- to 10-inch fry pan, pouring enough oil to fill the pan ½ way up to the edge. Oil should be hot enough to lightly fry tortilla. Place tortilla in pan, cook for about 20 seconds, turn over, bend in half, and continue to fry on both sides until tortilla is firm but not crisp. Remove from oil and drain, with tortilla upside down, holding its shape.
- Place 2-3 pieces of fish into tortilla shell. Top with salsa mixture, cabbage, hot sauce (try our California Chili Sauce), and ranch dressing. (Cheddar cheese is optional, but delicious.)