Guajillo-Chile Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw
Fish tacos weren't always a popular Texan dish. Like all tacos, they were originally found in Mexico, primarily in the Baja area on the West Coast, though you could also find versions in the Yucatan as well. A man named Rick Rubio is said to have brought them to the United States by way of San Diego, California, bock in the 1980s. Soon, however, you started seeing them on menus in coastal Texas towns such as Corpus Christi and Houston.
I had my first fish taco at Berryhill in Houston, a restaurant that has been credited with making fish tacos popular in Texas. Their version is the Baja interpretation, which means it's battered and fried. I, however, prefer the marinated version, which is more commonly found in South Texas. I find that this type of fish taco not only has more flavor, but is a bit healthier as well, since it isn't fried.
I take mild tilapia and soak it in a tangy, bright guajillo chile paste and then quickly cook it in a skillet. For a bit of crunch, I pair the fish with a creamy cabbage slaw that's given a bit of heat with a serrano chile. Served with warm tortillas, Cotija, and lime, these tacos make for a satisfying meal.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturecrunchy, savory, spiced, tangy
- 6 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ cup cilantro
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 pound of tilapia fillets
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 serrano chile, diced
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ cup cilantro
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- Flour or corn tortillas
- Cotija cheese, crumbled
- Lime wedges
In a dry skillet heated on high, toast the guajillo chiles on each side for about 10 seconds, or just until they start to puff. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover the chiles. Leave the heat on until the water begins to boil, then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak until soft, about 30 minutes.
Drain the chiles and place in a blender with the garlic, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, ginger, lime juice, and olive oil. Blend until a smooth paste forms. Add salt to taste.
Rinse and dry the fish, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and place in a nonreactive container. Cover the fish on all sides with the guajillo chile paste and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
While the fish is marinating, you can make the cabbage topping. Toss the shredded cabbage with 1 teaspoon of salt and let it sit unrefrigerated for 1 hour. Drain off the excess liquid and then mix the cabbage with the serrano chile, cumin, cilantro, mayonnaise, and lime juice. Add salt and black pepper to taste and refrigerate.
After the fish has marinated, melt the butter in a skillet on medium heat. Shake off any excess marinade and then cook the fillets for 3 minutes on each side. Add salt to taste. Cut the fish into bite-size pieces and place in warm tortillas. Top with the cabbage slaw and serve with Cotija cheese, lime wedges, and salsa.
2011 Lisa Fain