Ever since "breaking veg" two years ago after being an almost life-long vegetarian, I've been a huge fan of white fish. Unlike other meats, which I still don't eat (pescetarian is my new dietary title, I suppose), white fish is light, flaky and mild. I first started eating it in it's junk-foodiest form: fish & chips. I used to joke that yes, I'm a vegetarian but I'll eat fish if it's battered and fried.
From fish & chips I ventured into Mexican territory and a formed a love affair with the perfect little package of goodness known as the fish taco. My favourite fish tacos remain the baja style tacos from Chronic Tacos in Vancouver (they're a chain that started in California) but making my own FT's didn't occur to me until moving to Toronto where Chronic was nowhere to be found.
The following is less of a recipe and more of an outline — I just sort of made it up as I went along, following a the classic dredging technique. I would have liked to make my own pico de gallo but store-bought salsa was on hand and fast and we were HUNGRY. Ditto for the slaw: our new kitchen isn't stocked properly yet so a few shortcuts were taken. Still delicious though, I promise you that.
Panko Fish Tacos - An Outline
For the crispy fish:
- White fish (2 small ones or 1 fat one per person should cut it. I used frozen tilapia fillets that I thawed that morning)
- All-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, beaten with ~1/4 cup of milk or water (I used almond milk)
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Mexican spices or seasoning mix (make your own with smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt)
- Cooking oil (I used a mixture of canola and coconut oils)
- Small tortillas (preferably corn but we had to use flour ones because the store was out)
Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan on medium-high. Cut the fish into small strips about an inch wide and 4 inches long and pat dry with a paper towel. Lay out three dishes (I used plates for the dry components and a bowl for the egg). The first dish is for the flour, the next dish is for the beaten egg and milk, and the last dish is for the panko — in that order. Just eyeball the amounts and add more as you go if needed.
Season all three components generously with the spices — the key is to add flavour at every point for optimal deliciousness. Start at the flour end of the assembly line and coat a couple pieces of fish at a time. Now move them into the egg mixture and coat them in there. Then drop them into the panko and coat them in there. Now you can transfer the fish into the hot oil pan and cook them on each side until golden brown, which should take about 5 minutes per side. Don't try to do all your fish at once, it'll get out of hand. Just be patient and enjoy the monotony of the assembly line. When you take the fish out of the pan, place the pieces on a plate lined with paper towel to soak up excess oil.
For the coleslaw:
- Coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage and carrots
- Lime juice
- Mexican spices or seasoning mix (see above)
In a bowl mix about 1/2 cup of mayonaise with the juice of a lime. Season with mexican spices and taste to make sure it's not too sour. If it is, add more mayo. Then mix the dressing with the slaw.
We assembled our tacos on oven-warmed tortillas (wrap them in foil so they don't crisp up) and topped them with salsa. It was awesome. Would have been even better with some beer, just fyi.