American Adventures 3 – fish tacos

Fish taco at The One Lounge in Washington. Luscious!

Fish taco at The One Lounge in Washington. Luscious!

Tacos are, to use the American vernacular, awesome, even amazing. I first had tacos as a child in Sweden. They were the crunchy variety, filled with mince and topped with grated cheese, sloppy salsa and sour cream. Since then I have made my own hard-shelled tacos, tried soft shelled ones in Taco Bell and eaten them in restaurants across the States. Thus summer was all about fish tacos to me.

If, like me, you’ve mostly had crunchy tacos, you need to forget everything you think you knew about tacos. Good things are ahead!

Tacos are wonderfully adaptable and variable. After all, they’re just small pieces of bread used to move other ingredients to the mouth. To make a great fish taco, you need to think about colour and texture.


Fish tacos in Dallas. The green stuff is tomatillos and a nice, fried chilli on top,

Fish tacos in Dallas. The green stuff is tomatillos and a nice, fried chili on top,

I much prefer a soft taco to a hard one. Partly it’s because hard ones are difficult to eat (although I have a tip for you: wrap a soft taco around the outside of a hard taco and it becomes a lot easier to handle!), partly because I’m not fond of the hard cases. They’re bland and kind of greasy. They do add texture to the eating experience in a way that a soft taco doesn’t. But not to worry! There are many other ways to add texture to your food.

Red cabbage and carrots add crunch and vitamins. Or you can bread the fish to add crunch. A dry salsa, with red onion, also adds crunch. There doesn’t have to be much but you do need something to put your teeth into. All soft ingredients takes the fun out of your taco.


Not all Mexican food needs all of the Mexican sides: cheese, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, beans and rice. Once you’ve figured out your textures, just add enough other things to give a bit of colour. One fabulous source of colour – and flavour – is a good hot sauce. I like Cholula, available all over the US and from Lupe Pinto’s in Edinburgh, but there are other options. Look at the ingredients: a good hot sauce contains chillies, water and vinegar, not much else.

Fish Tacos

The wonderful thing about tacos is that there’s no strict rules. That is more worrying than liberating to some people, so rest assured that there are lots of recipes online that offer good takes on the fish taco. Here’s mine. It is an amalgam of the fish tacos that I ate this summer, from the ones I had in Washington, before it rained, to the ones I had in Dallas. Apart from a soft shell, fish and the servers who thought I was mad for sitting outside, those two had little in common. Still, they were fish tacos. Delicious fish tacos.

This looks like a lot of work because it’s uses pico de gallo (what I think of as salsa: roughly chopped, uncooked ingredients) and guacamole. Both are quick to make but can be substituted by shop-bought stuff. I’d recommend always making your own salsa: it’s much, much, much nicer than anything you can buy.

Makes four tacos which serves two as a main or four as a starter.

Fish Tacos
Preparation time
Cooking time
Total time
Fish tacos are delicious and don't have to be difficult to make.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2-4
  • Small tortillas (for example Mission Deli Mini Wraps), or soft taco shells, if you can find them.
  • 100 grams red cabbage, finely sliced.
  • 2 fillets of tuna or white fish
Pico de gallo (salsa)
  • 4 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 handful coriander, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 small (but not too hot) red chili, seeded and finely chopped (use some for the guacamole)
  • 2 ripe avocado
  • The juice of one lime
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • Finely chopped chili
  • Hot sauce
Pico de gallo
  1. Mix all the ingredients together. Try to keep it dry - tomatoes perspire and you don't want too much liquid when you spoon the salsa out. If you can, mix it in a sieve, resting over a bowl to catch drips.
  1. Mash the avocado with a spoon and add the other ingredients. The avocado has to be ripe or the guacamole doens't get the right creamy yet chunky texture.
  1. Slice the cabbage and put to the side.
  2. Prepare the taco shells: if you don't have a taco stand, use carrots, spice jars or aluminium foil to create valleys to put the shells in. You'll build directly into the shells, so prepare them on the plate you're serving them on.
  3. Fry the fish on a skillet until done (how long depends on what fish you chose) and slice into strips.
  4. Build the tacos: put cabbage at the bottom of the shell, then add salsa, fish and guacamole.
  5. Sprinkle with hot sauce and serve immediately.

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.


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