Influenced by both his Mexican background and experience at fine dining establishments, Wesley Avila’s unconventional tacos have garnered plenty of buzz beyond his home base in Los Angeles. His cookbook, Guerrilla Tacos, gives you a taste of L.A.’s taco trucks wherever you are.
Baja fish tacos are probably the second-most-popular taco you can get anywhere. Here we tried to re-create our version of a fish taco from one of the many stands in Ensenada, Baja California. We use cod in our recipe but in Baja they use locally caught mako or thresher shark. You can use any kind of good sustainable fish for this. Do not use farmed tilapia. We like Pacific mako, thresher, cod, pollock, and shrimp.
- In a large bowl, combine both cabbages, the cilantro, cilantro stems, and lime juice; season with salt; and stir gently until mixed. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, serranos, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice; season with salt and the pepper; and stir gently until mixed. Set aside.
- In a blender, combine the mustard, egg yolk, garlic, anchovies, lemon juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and shiso and blend on low-medium speed. Begin adding the vegetable oil slowly. Keep adding vegetable oil until you have a consistency thinner than mayo.
- Adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice. Transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- In a food processor, combine the sour cream, aïoli, chipotle in adobo, and the habanero and process until completely blended. Place in the fridge until you’re ready to use.
- Cut the fish into pieces about the size of your middle finger, or about 3 ounces each. Season with salt. Put 2 cups of the cornstarch into a small bowl. Dust the fish in the cornstarch until it’s completely coated and then set aside.
- Fill a Dutch oven over medium-high heat with about 3 inches of vegetable oil and bring to 365° to 375°F. (To test the heat, grab an extra tortilla. If when you dip the tortilla in the oil, it floats back up to the surface, it’s good. If it fries or browns right up, lower the heat a little.) Set a wire rack over a baking sheet and place near the stove.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and remaining 1⁄2 cup cornstarch. In a second bowl, mix together the beer and egg. Pour the dry ingredients into the beer mixture while whisking at a medium rate, just enough so the ingredients are incorporated into a batter. Season with salt and the pepper.
- One at a time, submerge the cornstarch-dusted fish in the batter to fully coat it. Let some batter drip off and use the side of the bowl to wipe off any excess. You want the fish totally coated but not dripping. Dunk each piece halfway into the oil, swish it forward once about 6 inches, back in the other direction, and then drop it in. Don’t crowd the pan too much or you’ll lower the temperature. Using tongs, gently roll the pieces around and fry until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove to the prepared rack, season with salt immediately. Repeat battering and frying the remaining fish. Let them dry slightly, but you want to serve them hot.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, warm the 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add the chiles japones and toss to coat in the oil. Cook until aromatic and the chiles change from crimson to crimson-brown, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, immediately remove from the heat and set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon crema, some fish, slaw, and pico de gallo to each tortilla. Break the toasted chiles over the top to add some flakey, smoky heat. Serve immediately, with the lime quarters, for diners to squeeze over the top, if desired.
Reprinted with permission from Guerrilla Tacos, copyright © 2017 by Wesley Avila, with Richard Parks III. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.