Today I sat down to write about fish tacos, but I got sucked into a wormhole looking for rentals in Baja on Air BnB. Doesn't a week at a desert-beach sound good right now or what? Just a modest little cottage with open windows and no locks on the doors. An outdoor shower, and landscaping of yucca and cactus. It's just a short jog to the beach for surfing and swimming, otherwise there's not much to do but read in hammocks, and watch movies from the owner's DVD collection at night. The internet is spotty, and rarely do we get a signal from our phone carrier. The town, only 2 miles away but a 20 minute drive because of the conditions of the roads, has a small market for the essentials (beer, toilet paper, takis) and a taco truck that makes the most incredible fish tacos.
The guy who runs the truck, Luis, doesn't speak any English, and our Spanish is abysmal, so we can't figure out what kind of fish he's using, but it's white as snow and breaks off into thick, fatty flakes while the delicate batter disintegrates as it hits the mouth. This textural play is punctuated by the heat and acidity of the unidentifiable salsas in plastic squeeze bottles, the crunch of some cabbage and radishes, and a squirt of crema. A lightly fried corn tortilla holds it all together. We make the tacos slightly more picante than we can handle and mitigate this error by downing cans of Modelo Especial. We come here every day around 5pm, after rising from our post-beach siestas. Then it's back to the casita for a screening of "When Harry Met Sally" and Takis.
Cue wavy soft focus and harp music
"Bobbie, Bobbie Wake Up!"
See what thinking of fish tacos does to me?
I've never been to Baja, nor have had fish tacos anywhere south of 50th and Hawthorne. But I dream of a fish taco lifestyle, and I make them at home often because they're festive and fast. In fact, up until a few months ago, I kept a jar in my spice cupboard labeled "Fish Taco Dust" on masking tape and sharpie. It contained a blend of paprika, cumin, black pepper, and garlic powder. I'd take some firm, flaky fish like Pacific cod or halibut, blot dry then season liberally with my taco dust, blacken in a hot cast iron skillet, and serve with corn tortillas, cabbage, crema, and Hot Boat Sauce.
Bobbie's Boat Dust has replaced my homemade taco dust (which clumped mercilessly) and for the occasion of its debut, I've created a recipe that more closely approximates a Baja fish taco sort of, in the sense that you add it to a flour dredge and make a simple batter. Adding Boat Sauce to the crema and finishing with more Boat Sauce and Boat Dust you would think is gilding the lily, and it is, but it's not overkill, it's harmony.