How to Make Perfect Fish Tacos

The fish taco—battered and fried, cabbage-stuffed—might have originated in San Felipe, the Baja California gulf town south of Mexicali, or in Ensenada, a three-hour drive northwest to the Pacific. Nobody knows, not really. But while the fish taco's origins are obscure, its ubiquity is in no doubt.

A taco is a miniaturist’s dream, a thing with so few elements that you judge it against other tacos by the small things. At Uno Dos Tacos in San Francisco, Luis Flores beer-batters Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), and tops it with a chipotle mayo cut with yogurt. This recipe calls for multiple steps, all of them easy enough to pull off on a summer evening. Chill the Coronas, cue up Dick Dale on Pandora, and go for it.

Uno Dos Tacos’ Pescado Tacos
Makes 8 tacos

For the beer batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 ounces beer

For the chipotle mayo:
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon minced chipotles in adobo sauce

For the tacos:
1/2 medium green cabbage
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless Pacific cod
6 cups vegetable oil

To assemble:
8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup Pico de Gallo salsa
3 limes

Step 1: In a medium mixing bowl, make the batter by combining the flour, garlic salt, and cayenne. Add the beer and whisk until well combined. Set aside to rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.

Step 2: Make the chipotle mayo by combining the ketchup, yogurt, mayonnaise, and chipotle chiles in a medium bowl and whisking till blended. Set this aside. (If you have a squeeze bottle, you can fill it with the sauce; otherwise, spoon it on when the time comes to assemble your tacos.)

Step 3: Cut the cabbage into strips, toss it with a pinch of salt and pepper, and set aside.

Step 4: Cut the cod into 2-inch strips. Use a paper towel to blot the pieces dry, then season with salt and pepper.

Step 5: Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet to 350°F (the fish pictured here is being lowered into the Uno Dos Tacos deep-fryer). Line a platter with several layers of paper towels; set aside.

Step 6: With tongs, dip 1 piece of fish at a time into the beer batter. Let the excess batter drip off.

Step 7: Carefully lower the fish into the hot oil. Fry the fish in 3 to 4 batches, turning once, until the pieces are deep golden brown and crisp on the outside with a flaky interior, about 6 minutes total.

Step 8: Remove the fish to the prepared platter.

Step 9: To assemble the tacos, heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet on high until it’s hot, about 4 minutes. Place a tortilla in the dry pan and heat, flipping once, until warmed on both sides. Wrap the tortilla in a clean dishtowel to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Step 10: To build your tacos, take a warm tortilla and squeeze or spoon on some of the chipotle mayo.

Step 11: Add a piece of fish, the seasoned cabbage, some pico de gallo, and a squeeze of lime. Repeat with all of the tortillas and serve at once. ¡Buen provecho!

Photos by Chris Rochelle