the fish tacos of mexico: part 1

Chapulines tacos Oaxaca
FISH TACOS. It was these two words that governed the direction of many a meal that my companion and I had whilst travelling in Mexico

We would start with a craving for fish tacos, and then, once seated at our chosen establishment, we would order away as our hearts desired. Comparisons were made and discussions naturally ensued: variance of tortillas, textures, toppings and cooking styles were enthusiastically dissected.

This mealtime ritual swiftly became a regular occurrence and before knowing it we had taken up the gauntlet and undertaken a fully fledged quest: a search for the “best fish taco”. And who could resist?? What better way is there to travel through Mexico than by following the small but mighty trail of the taco…

I will not, however, claim to have found THE BEST fish taco in all of Mexico. Personal preference of fundamentals such as fish or prawn, battered or grilled are too strong a force to be reckoned with. I will instead present to you the trials and tribulations of being in search of the best fish taco, for perfection is not something easily achieved…

(Please forgive me at this point, I’m using the umbrella term of ‘fish taco’ to encompass all manner of tortillas filled with a creature of the sea, no shrimp excluded.)

 Fish Taco No.1 : Turquesa, Tulum

Fish tacos Turquesa Tulum Fish taco experience number one in Mexico, at chic camping spot Turquesa, was victorious. Soft flour tortillas hugged lightly battered pieces of fish so perfectly cooked that their flakes seamlessly slipped apart in their eagerness to enter my mouth. Coming along for the ride was a dusty pink chipotle mayo, whose grainy flecks of smokey flavour bombs were just visible.

Beneath the arch of tacos on our plate was a little pile of crunchy vegegetables – cabbage, tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts – all awaiting admission to the party. And on the side was a glistening salsa, a smattering of blackened and blitzed orange chillies which added a slow, tangy after burn that spread blissfully throughout the mouth.

Fish Taco No.2 : Turquesa, Tulum

We went back. Same place, same tacos, half the fish. With a bland excuse for a chilli sauce on the side.

Deflation of spirit set in. But lessons were learnt. Standards had been set high, expectations must be adjusted to match up with a touch of trepidation: returning to where one last experienced fish taco heaven would always be a risk.

Fish Taco No.3 : La Playita, Lake Bacalar 

imageAt La Playita my companion chose the battered fish tacos complete with tartare sauce – reportedly a taco triumph – which you see pictured here. I however was a greedy guts, and didn’t stop to waste precious time taking photos before devouring the deliciousness that was my fish taco.

Cooked ‘al pastor’ style, my filling was white fish in a chipotle sauce with pineapple, and a pico de gallo that had been closely acquainted with a big bunch of coriander. The bite-size morsels of fish were splendidly succulent, the rich dark sauce disguising the pineapple chunks throughout. It was a taco on the sweeter side of savoury, but the pico’s red onion muscled in to pack a punch at all the right moments.

Fish Taco No.4 : Los Portales, Huatulco

This one was a surprise. So much so I forgot about photograph taking. From Los Portales‘ menu I ordered what I thought was to be a regular fish taco, but what arrived on my plate was not a soft tortilla encasing your typical fried fish…

Instead, I received crispy, deep-fried, crescent shaped pastries arranged upon a bed of shredded white cabbage, accompanied by refried beans, fresh tomatoes, red onion and avocado. Inside the golden pastry was a white fish cooked in a tomato sauce: sweet, smokey and intense on the fish flavour. An assortment of bottled chilli sauces, pico de gallo and fresh limes were awaiting use on the side.

I best enjoyed these ‘fish tacos’ opened up and eaten in the form of little boats, the crunchy hull of cornmeal carrying aboard a fish stew upon which was a stowaway selection of toppings. Creamy avocado and a sharp jalapeño salsa was the winning combination of all that I tried.

In the end, a very pleasant surprise indeed.

To Be Continued…

So that rounds off the first instalment of “the fish tacos of Mexico”!

What surprises did we find next? Were there any taco horrors that jumped in our path? Watch this space to find out…


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