Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fish tacos with mango salsa

As I said I would yesterday, I saw Eat, Pray, Love last night!  I loooooved the book and just liked the movie.  There are very few cases when the movie surpasses the book, so I wasn't the least bit bummed.  I'd still recommend it to all females (and any patient male counterparts).  The story is heart-warming, I love Julia Roberts, and the supporting cast was phenomenal: Javier Bardem?  Mm.  The roles of Richard from Texas and David?  Perfect casting.  And Sofie?  Uh-door-uh-bull.  But my favorite part of the movie was the scenery... oh the scenery, what I would've given to tour with the cast and crew during filming.  Italy, India, and Indonesia.  While seeing Italy just affirms that I must visit someday, the sights in Indonesia were breathtaking.  TropicalGorgeous.

Basically, I came home wanting to jet off on an exotic vacation, but I swear movies always have some sort of effect on me.  After Sex and the City 2, I wanted to go shopping... badly.  During Julie & Julia, I baked cookies, though they were a bit of a flop an epic fail.   And, after Inception, I had the most bizarre cracked-out dreams I've had in a long time.  Man, I must be a movie marketing team's dream come true.  Thankfully, this movie also featured delicious food, so I just settled for reliving a fresh island feast that I made the night before -- tropical fish tacos.

While the taco is originally a Mexican dish typically featuring a tortilla folded around a filling of seasoned ground beef or chicken, cheese, vegetables and salsa, the many adaptations of the taco are really what interest me.  I first had fish tacos out at dinner with friends as a bit of an experiment.  I liked regular tacos and liked all of the ingredients listed in the menu for this variation but never would've put them together myself, so why not give it a try?  Oh match made in Heaven.  Crispy flaky fish with sweet and spicy salsa, hints of lime and a dollop of sour cream.  Since that night, I've spoken fondly of my maiden fish taco voyage, even finding a local place with its own version of the dish (though I'm not over the moon about the thick fried breading on the fish).  There was absolutely no reason I couldn't pull off something like this in my own kitchen. 

I didn't really have a recipe to go from, so much of this was done from memory.  The marinade for the fish was concocted with severe shiny object syndrome at play -- "Oh, some lime juice!  And olive oil.  Is that garlic I see?  Yep, and oooooooooh, a shiny unopened bottle of tequila, yes!"  (Don't judge me for the bottle being unopened thus far.)  I knew I didn't want to fry the fish, so a tangy marinade was just the ticket.  Lime adds such brightness to a normally plain fish like tilapia.  As for the "salsa", I threw a bunch of pretty foods together and lucked out with a fantastic topping for the fish.  A diced tomato to start, a little bit of red onion for bite, one of Matt's homegrown hot banana peppers for a tiny bit of heat, and finally a use for that lonely mango I impulsively bought on sale at the store last week.  A bit of salt and pepper and some lime juice to finish off the mix. 

Tropical Fish Tacos
-serves 2

A few notes: You could use any mild white fish in place of tilapia if you have a preference such as mahi mahi, flounder, or even halibut; tilapia just happened to be on sale at the time for me.  If you don't have tequila, you could swap white wine in place of it, or omit it altogether, no harm done.  And, if you're crazy like Matt and love spicy hot things, add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes to the salsa for even more kick.

1/2 pound (2) tilapia fillets (or other light white fish such as halibut, mahi mahi or flounder)
1 lime
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons tequila
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small mango, diced
1 Tablespoon diced red onion
1 small hot banana pepper, diced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
Ground black pepper
2 ten-inch tortillas (or six-inch small soft taco shells)
Chopped lettuce (Romaine or iceberg) for serving
Sour cream (optional), for serving

In a resealable plastic container, whisk together 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of half of the lime, 2 Tablespoons of tequila, and the minced garlic.  Place tilapia in container, flipping to coat, cover and allow to marinate in refrigerator 20-25 minutes.

While fish is marinating, in a small bowl, toss together diced mango, tomato, onion and pepper.  Season with salt and pepper and squeeze the juice of half of the lime into the mix; set aside.

Remove fish marinade from refrigerator.  Heat skillet and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat.  Season each side of fish lightly with salt and pepper and place in hot pan.  Cook 3-4 minutes on first side.  Resist the urge to move the fish -- it'll break and flake on you if it's not ready to be flipped.  Once you can see the fish has turned white on the bottom and is beginning to get a nice light golden crust (see above), flip and cook 2-3 minutes on remaining side.

Serve on a warmed soft tortilla (nuke it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so) and top with salsa, lettuce and sour cream, if using.  Enjoy and savor every bite.  Know that food this fresh and good can be easily made at home and that trip to Bali can wait, even if just for a few months :)
Today is National Soft Ice Cream Day!


  1. 1. I judge you for your unopened tequila bottle.

    2. Kaya in the Strip District has amazing "island-y" food, including tacos like these. Highly recommended for the cooking-challenged.

  2. Kaya has been on my to-try list foreverrrrrr, but surprisingly, for their fried chicken Thursday nights. What have you gotten there? Very curious!

  3. During my first and only visit to Kaya, I got the Park Farms Jerked Chicken Torta. It was quite good but a little difficult to eat because it kept falling apart.