The concept is simple – wrap a tortilla around a piece of fish and you have a meal -- but this doesn’t describe the tasty treat that fish tacos have evolved into. That “piece of fish” is usually a piece of delicately flavoured white fish that has been dipped in a seasoned batter and deep-fried to crunchy perfection. Add a drizzle of sour cream and some salsa and you have an amazing flavour combination that manages to be light and filling at the same time.
There’s some speculation about where fish tacos first came into being, but Mexicans have been wrapping fish in tortillas for years. Regardless of who first came up with the idea, many places have adopted the idea and serve an excellent fish taco along with Mexican hospitality.
Of all the places claiming to be the city-of-origin, Ensenada seems to have the best story. They will tell you of an influx of Japanese immigrants in the 20s who brought with them the recipe for tempura batter. Tacos there have a lighter coating of batter that is similar to tempura -- but with a Mexican flair.
Puesto Fenix: Stop there and chomp into a spicy bite with chopped, fresh veggies on the tortilla and a spoonful of creamy sauce to balance the extra spice in the batter. Drizzle your dinner with homemade green salsa to add a bit of sourness to the mix and you have the perfect combination for your mid day meal.
Tacos La Floresta: It’s run by a large family and you never know who you’ll see behind the counter when you arrive. It doesn’t matter since they all serve tasty tacos and let you choose from a variety of toppings that includes pickled jalapeños and chipotle mayonnaise.
Tacos Mi Ranchito El Fenix: Often referred to as “El Fenix”, this is the big brother to Puesto and has a notable following among fish taco lovers. For one thing it has seats, a convenience missing on most of the other taco stands, but it also has very consistent food (also sometimes lacking elsewhere). The crispy fish is served with a veggie slaw and two kinds of salsa that work well together.
Fish Tacos Ensenada: Not the catchiest name, but they offer both shrimp and shark tacos. The seafood is sprinkled with garlic before being cooked giving it an extra bit of flavour, but what really seals the deal is the array of freshly made sauces on the counter. You can fire up your taco with a spoonful of habanero salsa or mellow it out with some toasted chile de arbol.
This town, on the other hand, points out that the batter used is made with beer, an ingredient that doesn’t require refrigeration. They would argue that in broiling hot San Felipe it would be logical to make a batter with beer.
Getting a good fish taco there is a bit easier as all the great eateries are in one place and most of them serve great fish tacos. The Malecon is lined with taco stands. If you aren’t willing to sample your way down the line, look for the most crowded spot.
The Taco Factory: This place can be counted on for serving up a good lunch and your tortilla comes rolled up with a dollop of guacamole along with salsa. They also have stingray, shrimp and great ceviche.
Taqueria y Mariscos Adriana: Probably the best fried fish in town, many feel that this stand inspired the popular Rubio’s that has taken off in the U.S. The truck is bright turquoise – you can’t miss it, and you shouldn’t.
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This place can’t be beat for variety when it comes to tacos. Taking advantage of the tourist influence, the eateries try a variety of recipes and keep the ones that work. Marlin, manta, tuna fins and even octopus are served rolled into a tortilla and splashed with salsa.
Tacos Kokopelli: Marinated octopus, grilled chile and chile de arbol sauce combine to make a fabulous taco that’s affectionately called the Castigo Azteca – the Aztec punishment. If you’re really daring order the Black Harder, a ceviche taco that’s an unappetizing gray because of the added squid ink. It’s surprisingly good if you can get past the colour.
Mariscos Ruben: The truck has been parked on the same corner for 20 years and people still rave about the food. The manta ray taco is pretty good, but the smoked marlin with avocado sauce is amazing. Try one of the homemade salsas and you’ll order another taco just to taste more salsas.
Mariscos El Mazateño: They pile so much grilled shrimp on your tortilla that folding it into a taco becomes a challenge. Add several of the tasty sauces they have and you can just give up on eating with any dignity. It’s okay, though. Everyone else is licking their fingers too.
La Corriente Cevecheria Nais: It’s kind of a restaurant, but one with open walls and plastic chairs. It’s all part of the ambiance along with live music in the evenings and a diverse menu. Everything there is amazing and priced so you can sample a variety of dishes without feeling the pinch in your pocketbook.