On Eating and Loving Food

Fish tacos

“I don’t even care where they come from. They’re just awesome.” - Chef Alex Stupak
Posted:  Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - 8:45am
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I’ve written about tacos in general, but I’m going to get specific here: Haddock tacos. Most restaurant menus list them as simply fish tacos. If they do that, and there’s no description with the word “haddock” in it, I ask. I want my fish tacos to be made with haddock, not tilapia.

I really think haddock tacos are my favorite food. Just kidding. Everything is my favorite food at the time I’m eating it.

Bur seriously, haddock tacos are at the top of my list.

I don’t know when fish, or haddock tacos, came into vogue, but they certainly haven’t been around for as long as regular, ground beef or carnitas tacos have. I just typed "carnitas" like it’s old hat to me. In reality I never heard of it until I went to Que Rico in Newcastle a couple years ago. I’m a Mainer.

Speaking of Que Rico, if you haven’t been and tried one of their tacos (carnitas is my favorite), do yourself a favor. I’m serious. The chef, Michael Castillo, hails from South Central Los Angeles and his parents are both from Mexico. He knows tacos, and Mexican street food in general. He said a traditional Mexican taco is made with a soft shell white corn tortilla.

And when (not if) you go, order one of his new blackened fish tacos along with a carnitas one. He sold out the first morning he offered them.

According to smithsonian.com, the fish taco dates back to the 18th century and it has traveled from Mexican silver mines to become a fast food staple. “Mexican silver miners likely invented the taco, Mexican Americans in the Southwest reinvented it, and Glen Bell mass-marketed it via the crunchy Taco Bell shell.”

But the fish taco? There are a bunch of theories floating around out there in cyberspace, but I don’t have the time or the inclination to spend hours researching.

I will tell you though, that, again, according to the New York Times site, a certain New York restaurateur, Richard Ampudia, claims that Japanese fishermen working around Baja, California before World War II introduced fish tempura to the locals, and that tempura eventually found its way into tortillas.

Anyway. It’s nice to be educated about the food we eat, but it’s much more fun to just eat it.

And I did just that: Ate haddock tacos last night, made right here in my own kitchen, with the forest moss green floor, in Edgecomb.

Unlike ground beef tacos, with all the Mexican spices and array of colorful toppings, fish tacos should be kept simple: Crispy fried golden brown pieces of haddock, a crunchy or soft taco shell, finely shredded cabbage (not lettuce!) and something like mayonnaise, sour cream, crema (kind of a Mexican crème fraiche), or a combination of any, with a squeeze of fresh lime thrown in. I usually throw in a teaspoon of cumin too, and a few sprigs of cilantro.

I’ve subbed Greek yogurt for the sour cream, and I often throw in some avocado. I place a couple pieces of the fried haddock in the shell (I prefer crunchy white corn shells, but whenever I have one with a soft flour taco, I think I like it better :-) Throw a handful of the finely shredded cabbage over the fish, then a spoonful of the sour cream mixture on top.

That’s all you need. Sometimes I have a hard time limiting the toppings, because, well, just because. It stresses me out to not add cherry tomatoes and some hot sauce. I’ve even been known to throw some chopped scallions on, but no onions. Onions. Do. Not. Go. With. Seafood. Period. When you have any seafood, you want to taste that, not onions.

The New York Times website says that, really, the only moist item on a fish taco should be the crema (or whatever). “Spoonfuls of tomato salsa? Probably a bad call.”

And “There’s something about sinking your teeth into something soft, and then feeling a crunch, that is just magical.”

It’s true. A few haddock tacos, a glass of chilled chardonnay, a deck, some sunshine, my little pooper, Elliot, and kitten, Ruby-2-Shoes, and I’m thrilled. Especially if I had a manhattan while preparing the tacos.

Up next week: All I know about lobsters, which really isn’t all that much, but probably more than you need, or want, to know. And an upcoming epic lobster feed in Cushing – where my heart is.

See ya then.