What To Keep In Mind When Choosing Fish For Tacos

Fish tacos are the kind of food you don't realize you need in your life until the moment you taste a good one, and then you never want it to leave. Tacos already offer a bevy of fantastic choices when it comes to fillings, from your salty, savory carne asada to tart, vegetal nopales, so you may not even think about something as basic to the recipe as fish. It doesn't help that fish tacos aren't as common outside their home base of Baja and Southern California. As Sunset Magazine reports, they only took shape in coastal northwest Mexico in the last fifty years, and only in the last few decades have fish tacos moved from the street carts of the Pacific coast to menus around the country.

When you do finally take that first fish taco plunge, you are going to despair over what you've been missing. Crispy fried fish in a corn tortilla is the perfect vessel for a bevy of creamy and spicy condiments. The tangy crunch of cabbage, the heat of salsa, and the cooling of different mayo-based sauces mingle with fat and flaky fish to form one of the most satisfying bites of street food you're ever going to have. It also seems easy enough to replicate that any home cook will want to figure out how to make one themselves. So where do you start? You start with the right fish.

Mild white fish is the choice for great fish tacos

Fish tacos' origins are part of the key to understanding their appeal. NPR notes that they are a working-class street food, so they tend to be made with fish that is simple to cook and affordable, meaning they are generally mild-tasting, and not too rich. According to The Spruce Eats, lean and flaky white fish like cod and tilapia are the favored fish of the Baja fish taco, but other options like bass and catfish will work. You'll want to avoid any fish with too much fat, like salmon, as they can get oily and unpleasant when fried.

The somewhat ironic thing about the fish taco is that the fish is not the star. The fish taco was born from the combination of frying fish, supposedly introduced to the Baja peninsula by Asian traders, and condiment-heavy Mexican cooking. The flavor of the frying batter and the toppings are the real focus, with the fish just working as a meaty conduit between the other ingredients. It's a style of cooking made to elevate cheaper fish, and something too flavorful is going to overpower the taco instead of blend in and complement it. It's hard to go completely wrong if you follow the basic formula, but make your fish taco right, and your life will be permanently changed for the better.