What makes a truly great fish taco? Everyone will probably answer this question differently. Some people are happy with Rubio's.
I am a Los Angeles ex-pat living in a small town in Baja. Baja California Sur. Mexico. Baja is a long skinny peninsula, surrounded by water on both sides and in many minds can be credited with inventing the battered and fried fish taco.
Capeado. That means battered. It literally means weathered. Fascinating. You can say empanizado but that really means breaded... not the same thing. What you don't want to ask for is an embarazada fish taco, because that word means pregnant. I once made that mistake and got a lot of laughs.
It's all about the batter and the quality of the fish or shrimp of course. But the batter... let's get back to the batter. It should be crispy but not too oily. It should be savory, piquant, it should make your lips smack together and cry for more.
In the tiny town of Todos Santos, there are at least 10 places you can grab a fish taco for an average cost of $2 per taco. In the neighboring town of Pescadero, there are maybe 2-3 more places. The best by far is a humble, palapa-covered stand, on the Truck Bypass in Todos Santos, called El Sinaloense; Named thus because the hardworking owner/operator, Jose, is from Sinaloa.
Sinaloa is right across the 'street' or the straight from Baja. You have to cross the Sea of Cortez and they have a lot of coastline, so it's quite possible the fish taco that Baja is credited with inventing came from Sinaloa. Or perhaps a lonely fisherman from Baja took a trip to Sinaloa and brought his tacos with him.
Either way, the perfect fish taco should be so good, so fresh, that you could eat it plain. I know... I know, that is a BOLD ASS STATEMENT. But there. I'm stating it. The classic toppings are awesome and work well in any combination. Cabbage, Crema, Salsa... Yes. Those things are important. But nothing is as important as the batter.
How to get a great batter? Well.... you have to season the flour. Using beer instead of water helps impart flavor and fluffiness. You have to use enough salt, pepper, even a pinch of chile or cumin and not rely on your salsa or your customer's imagination to do all the work.
That's what Jose does. He also changes his oil EVERY DAY. No recyling. He also orders a very high quality of shrimp that comes over on a ferry from Los Mochis. His restaurant is very clean. His salsas never sit out in the hot sun. His cabbage is fresh and crispy with added carrots and cilantro.
Just because he's classy, he includes a battered guero chile on the plate. A fresh one. Made when your taco is made. And because he knows his town draws in a lot of Americans, some of them skinny and health conscious, he even offers a simple grilled fish or shrimp taco as an alternative.
I personally have no interest in that healthy alternative most days, but it's great that it's offered.
Thank you Jose for getting up every morning at 6am and working your nalgas off until around 5pm. You are one of the people that make our town great.