I was not quite sure how to start this post , I mean it’s a taco, it’s just a handy sized corn tortilla, cooked on the plancha, stuffed generously with a variety of fillings and dressed with your favourite condiments. What then, makes these antojitos (little cravings) gain such a feverish following at clandestine food trucks that pop up at midnight to satisfy the (surprisingly) evolved palate millennials post-clubbing? Why not just hot dogs or if you’re British, a doner kebab or your garden variety of pie? How did the humble taco enrapture so many? To answer that, let’s go back a bit to understand a little more about Mexican street food and discover why.
Traditional Mexican street foods are easiest to find early in the mornings and again in the evenings and even more so, late into the night. That makes perfect sense, seeing how people are always moving about in the morning – going to work (not so much now, in recent times in light of the on-going pandemic) and then returning from work in the evenings or heading to the bar to meet friends (or lovers) and require a quick small bite to lace the stomach. Culturally, it is the traditional (now slowly declining) siesta time that saw workers returning home to lunch and have a nap before heading back out to the office. Although not widely practiced now, indelible cultural practices such as these have a way of grabbing on like tightened tentacles and not let go.
There are perhaps more varieties of tacos than there are Old Greek Gods (Cyamites – the God of broad beans, is a prime example of the many existing variety of obscure Greek Gods) .
Tacos de canasta, tacos barbacoa, tacos cabeza de res, tacos al pastor, tacos de cazuela, Fritangas, Carne asada , Codzitos, tacos dorados, and the list goes on but you get the point.
A food that welcomes changes, innovation and the individuality of chefs , there are no rules when it comes to tacos. One is free to create; like a blank culinary canvas onto which you paint with your preferred palate of meats, vegetables and condiments – here you could mix regions, cultures, and metaphors and no one would get upset. That is perhaps why tacos are so welcoming and inviting. Ever so popular with the younger generation who don’t want to eat the same kebab their dad and uncles have been eating every Friday night down at the pub for the last 30 years (not to say there isn’t any innovation in Middle Eastern foods but it, like traditional French cuisine, can have very static and pervasive ‘rules’)
This cultural meander leads us to today’s recipe – Fish Tacos, a native dish from Baja California (Mexico) that shares its border with California (USA). It was here from these fertile grounds that the taco poised itself for world domination entrancing chefs and customers alike with its no-holds barred MMA-like, do-what-you-will, no rules (just street style) attitude and catapulted into the imagination of the world.
- 500gm fish fillets (we use a mixture of barramundi and salmon as it’s sustainably farmed here in Singapore by Kuhlbarra which we are huge fans of)
- 1 pc garlic clove, minced
- 2 limes, freshly zested and juiced
- Rough chopped coriander leaves
- 1 pc shallot, minced
- 1 whole egg (just the yolk and white, minus the shell!)
Place all the above ingredients in a food processor and blitz till it forms a coarse paste, form into bite sized patties and refrigerate for 30 mins for it to firm up. Coat a heated heavy based skillet with olive oil and fry the patties for 2 minutes on each side.
- 200gm greek yoghurt (we like Mundella and Farmer’s Union best as they’re thick)
- 1 tsp ground cumin seeds, dry toasted
- 1/2 tsp sweet Spanish paprika
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and adjust the seasoning according to taste (if needed)
- 1/2 pc mango, julienned
- 2 pc big red chilies, julienned
- 4 pc shallots, thinly sliced
- 30 gm rice wine vinegar
- 30 ml fish sauce
- 1 lime fresh squeezed
Julienne the mango (matchstick cut) and red chilli and toss with the remaining ingredients to make a fresh crisp salad, taste and adjust with a little caster sugar if it’s the sour side.
All that’s left now is to toast the tortillas on your plancha or in your pan and build it your way. Place the finished tacos in a basket, make it like a sandwich or fold it in half (a.k.a the traditionalist taco) There are no rules – it’s your choice, your way so enjoy a little rebellion and break some rules 😉
As Ana Tijoux so eloquently rhymes in her song 1977 – Como un arquitecto
Construyendo cada efecto, Correcto, incorrecto, sé aprender todo al respecto
We’ve got some time so let’s go design our own tacos while remembering what is arguably the best line in all of the Star Wars movies, “Let the past die, kill it if you have to” (ohhhh gonna have so many haters for a The Last Jedi quote. Oops, is it way too soon?)! Viva la culinary revolution!