Tacos are one of those foods that appeal to just about everyone. Filled with beef or chicken, lettuce, cheese, salsa, avocado and whatever else you can fit in to the tortilla, they are quick and easy to fix.
Over the past few years another version of tacos has hit the culinary scene — fish tacos. Think of them as fast food with an epicurean reputation.
They are also one of the most popular items on the menu at Pescara. Says Kyle Stumpf, executive chef, “We sell hundreds every day at lunch.”
“Things really get crazy when Thursdays on First begins,” he said. (That’s June 4 this year.) “Then we sell thousands.”
Believe it, because the line of people waiting to buy one at lunchtime often wraps all around Peace Plaza. While Pescara has offered them for several years, the fish taco craze started because the chefs wanted a good way to use pieces of fish that had been trimmed off larger pieces.
Tacos seemed like a good way to go, and they were an immediate success — so much so that now, rather than using trimmings, Pescara uses fresh mahi mahi.
“We easily go through 20 pounds a day,” Stumpf said. “Our servings are 2 ounces, and that makes a lot of tacos.”
In addition to the mahi mahi, Pescara offers shrimp tacos, a popular item as well.
Going over the fish is cabbage slaw, avocado, roasted corn salsa and a lime vinaigrette. The ingredients are layered in a soft flour tortilla, but if someone is wanting the more traditional corn variety, that, too, is available.
So who ever thought of putting fish in a tortilla? While the concept is a fairly new one in our area, it has been popular in the coastal area of Mexico and the Baja for at least 50 years.
It probably began when a hungry fisherman took his catch and put it in a tortilla along with some fixings for lunch. Early on it was beach food, and then gradually became more popular as people were introduced to the concept.
Ralph Rubio a San Diego restaurateur, gets credit for bringing the dish to San Diego in 1983. It has since become a popular menu item up and down the West Coast.
These tacos are also one of the easiest things to fix in your own kitchen. Any mild fresh fish fillet works well — swordfish, tilapia, halibut, Alaskan pollock, catfish, even cod.
Traditionally the fish is lightly fried, but it can also be grilled, sauteed and even baked. Cook’s choice. What goes into the tortilla again is up to the cook. Cabbage slaw, either a tomato or a mango salsa, avocado and lime juice are essential, but there are those who add grilled peppers and onion as well.
What you use should be simple yet flavorful. The whole process is really no more complicated than fixing a hamburger. Warmed corn tortillas are what are generally used, but flour tortillas work just as well. Feel free to do your own thing. Ole!