Inspired by my search for the best Fish Taco in San Diego, these simple battered fish tacos are dressed with a bright and smoky Chipotle Crema. In other words, if you can't make it to San Diego soon, these fish tacos will hold you over in the interim.
Strips of fresh tilapia are first coated in cornstarch and dried out in the refrigerator to ensure a crispy texture. The tilapia then gets dipped in a fragrant beer batter, and fried until puffed and golden. The batter is light, crisp, and most-important, it lets the flavor of the fish come through.
Nestled into a warm corn tortilla, the battered fish is topped with crunchy shredded cabbage, bright cilantro, freshly squeezed lime juice, and a thin crema flavored with lime and chipotle in adobo. These fish tacos are best enjoyed immediately, and with plenty of ice cold beer!
such as snapper, cod, mahi mahi, or tilapia
plus more to taste
To prepare the fish: Cut each tilapia fillet in half lengthwise. Keep the shorter half of the fillet whole, but cut the longer half in half again widthwise. To a large bowl, add 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 2 teaspoons kosher salt, whisking to combine. Add the strips of tilapia, and toss until evenly coated. Transfer the fish to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes or overnight. Meanwhile, make the crema.
For the crema: Combine the Mexican crema, mayo, chipotles, lime juice and a pinch of salt in a small food processor or blender, and process until smooth. The crema should be fairly thin. Season to taste with additional kosher salt and lime juice. Flavors should be bright and bold.
Recipe can be done through this step up to 1 day ahead.
To fry the fish: When ready to fry, whisk together 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 cup flour and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a large bowl. Add beer, and whisk until smooth. To test the consistency, dip a whisk into the batter, then pull up. If the batter runs off the whisk in a steady, thin stream, it’s perfect. If it doesn’t hold to the whisk, it’s too thin. Whisk in a little flour and test again. If the batter runs off the whisk in a slower, thicker stream, it’s too thick, whisk in a little beer and test again. Set batter aside for 15 minutes before using.
Meanwhile, fill a large cast-iron pot with enough oil to reach a depth of 2-inches, and preheat oil to 350°F. Working in batches, dip the fillets in the beer batter one at a time, making sure the fish is fully coated. Let excess batter drip off, then carefully lower the fish in the oil. Don’t overcrowd the batches as this will cause the temperature of the oil to drop quickly. Fry the fish until golden brown and cooked through (4 to 5 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack and immediately sprinkle with salt.
To assemble the fish tacos: To make the fish tacos, place 1 or 2 pieces of fried fish in a warm tortilla with shredded cabbage. Squeeze a lime over the fish and cabbage, then drizzle with chipotle crema. Finish with a few cilantro leaves. The fish tacos are best enjoyed immediately!
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Food styling and photography by Brandon Matzek of Kitchen Konfidence