AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Fish Tacos in Paradise DATE: 1/10/2010 07:58:00 PM ----- BODY:

A cross-country road-trip often requires stopping in places one otherwise might not visit. As I drove from DC to San Francisco in 1994, El Paso became an intermediate destination. I pulled into a seemingly clean motel with cheap rooms, and immediately began a quest for dinner. The hotel clerk recommended Lucy’s Restaurant just a few doors down. This suited me just fine since I could walk.

I was traveling alone. And perhaps it was the way I people-watched, or wrote in my journal; the manager decided I was a restaurant critic from the New York Times. He took great interest in what I ate, and brought me sample sizes of many different dishes. I recall my intrigue as he presented the soft tacos filled with cubed meat instead of the American taco bastardization of crispy shells filled with ground meat. This was a revelation.

Several years later, the discovery of crispy fish tacos was less unexpected, but more satisfying. The taco shells were still prepared of soft corn flour, but instead the filling was crispy fish chunks topped with shredded cabbage, onions and thinned, seasoned sour cream, with nary a hint of cheese. This style of tacos made their way north into the US from Baja California via San Diego.

On the other side of Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea, a different style of fish taco has evolved… the fish is cubed and marinated, more like a ceviche, and grilled in banana leaf or griddled plain.

With visions of turquoise waters and azure blue skies, these tacos are paradise on a plate. Equally authentic, but a distant relative of the tacos from Lucy’s.

Fish Tacos a la Maya Tulum

1 lb. grouper fillets, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tbs. soy sauce
2 tbs. lime juice
1 chipotle pepper (packed in adobo), minced
1 tbs. oil

Papaya Salsa
1 ½ cups ripe papaya diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
2 tbs. cilantro
1 tbs. rice wine vinegar

Cilantro “Aioli”
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup cilantro leaves (and stems)

Corn tortillas and romaine lettuce

1. For the fish: combine fish with soy, lime and chipotle. Let marinade for 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, combine ingredients for papaya salsa. Set aside.
3. In a food processor, combine cilantro and mayonnaise. Process until the mayo is bright green and smooth.
4. Turn oven to 400. Put corn tortillas on a sheet tray. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Warm in oven until warm, soft and pliable, approximately 5 minutes. Set aside in a warm spot
5. While tortillas are warming, Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil. Add the fish and cook for 3 minutes.
6. Put two tortillas on a plate. Top with fish cubes, papaya salsa and cilantro aioli. Garnish with lettuce.

I'm submitting this recipe to Joan of Foodalouge's Culinary Tour of South America. To see a round-up of Mexican recipes, click on her blog.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Fresh Local and Best DATE:1/10/2010 08:42:00 PM The fish tacos looks so refreshing! I like the papaya salsa. It must be wonderful mix of sweet, tangy and spicy flavors! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:1/10/2010 09:42:00 PM With that salsa, how wonderful they sound. I do love fish tacos. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Joan Nova DATE:1/10/2010 10:37:00 PM So glad to have you on the 'tour'. Your fish tacos sound wonderful and I particularly like that you added a cilantro flavored aioli as well as a salsa. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:1/11/2010 06:41:00 AM A lovely recipe. And, I had to laugh about the experience in the restaurant. I have been amazed at how attentive the staff are when you bring a notebook to the table! Go figure! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Ravenous Couple DATE:1/11/2010 06:28:00 PM we love fish tacos and had a blast when we went to the mexican riviera and tulum area. had plenty of ceviche but don't seem to remember this version...but this sounds great! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Lori Lynn DATE:1/12/2010 09:32:00 AM Both varieties of fish tacos sound muy bien to me!
LL ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:1/13/2010 08:49:00 AM Fresh Local and Best - The balance of flavors really made the dish sing!

noble pig - I was surprised how much I liked the salsa with the tacos, because I usually don't like papaya.

Joan Nova -- it's all about the layering of flavors ;)

T.W. - The funny thing is -- when I ate with an actual food critic, he was very careful to hide his notebook.

Ravenous Couple -- Maybe it was just the specialty of the resort I stayed in?

Lori Lynn -- True that. I would never refuse either one. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger The Hired Pen DATE:1/13/2010 02:07:00 PM Another wonderful recipe from the most creative and innovative chef I know! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Bellini Valli DATE:1/13/2010 04:46:00 PM This is so refreshing and with the backdrop of the palm trees and ocean in the background I am ready to hop on a plane. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger My Carolina Kitchen DATE:1/13/2010 04:56:00 PM Beautiful with the backdrop of palm trees. I love the story of their thinking you were a food critic. How cool is that. I'll have to try takine a notebook with me.

I saw your tacos on Joan's Foodalogue blog and had to pop over and say hello.
Sam ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Andrea DATE:1/13/2010 07:45:00 PM look and sounds SO delicious! pretty much like the rest of your recipes. :-)
definitely is going to be on my menu this weekend... ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Kitchen Butterfly DATE:1/15/2010 02:49:00 PM Love the fact that I can 'taste' the fish and see hints of the ocean....refreshing ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:1/16/2010 02:37:00 PM Bruce -- Thanks! I'll make it for you and Heather the next time you come over.

Bellini Valli and Kitchen Butterfly -- Palm trees and Caribbean breezes make everything taste better.

Sam -- thanks for stopping by and saying hello!

Andrea -- I hope you like it. You'll have to let me know how it turns out for you. ----- --------