Staples: Seafood and corn seasoned with chillis and salsa
Top Dish: Fish taco – fresh from the sea
Tastes: Plain fish and meat spiced up with salsas and dips and oodles of fresh crunchy salads
Sea food is of course the main staple around the waters of Baja California, but it not as abundant as you may think as much of it ends up being quickly packaged and exported.
Fish taco is the staple in Baja fast food and comes in several different varieties, all served in a taco shell. It is said the original recipe came from a Japanese fisherman.
Many restaurants will claim their fish tacos is the authentic product, but like a hot dog you’re better off with a roadside stall than at a sit down restaurant where the fish is fresh and prepared in front of you. The taco is served as battered fish in a hot corn or wheat tortilla. At a roadside stall many different salsas are on offer – red chilli, radishes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, Mexican crema.
Making your own fish taco is quite simple. Use any white fish, as long as the flavour isn’t too overpowering. Squeeze the fish fillets with lime until they are soaked. Make batter using eggs, flour and seasoning. Dip the marinated fish thoroughly in batter then deep fry the fish in a wok using 1 – 2 inches of vegetable or olive oil and deep fry the fish hot for about three minutes until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve on tortillas with fresh salsas.
Cahuama was a green sea turtle, which has now been replaced with Manta Ray fish in making Cahuamanta a chunky stew, either fresh or salted. It is served in small tacos with shredded cabbage, lemon and salsa. The stew is also sold in bowls with meat or as a broth. The taco version will cost you around 3 or 4 pesos.
Roadside stalls will sell various fish taco and also Marscos – shellfish like oysters, octopus, squid and crab cocktails. A cocktail will contain tomato, onions, and cucumber plus a spicy salsa and cost around $3.
Delicious tostadas are a crispy corn tortilla covered in mayonnaise and piled high with crab meat, shrimp, or ceviche (raw fish mixed with salsa and soaked in lime juice) and garnished with salsa, onions, chilis and lemon. Another corn delicacy to try in Baja are corndidas which are made of corn with beans, salad, melted cheese and chilli.
If all the spicy Mexican salsa and chillis combined with lashings of tequila just get too much, you may need to take a trip to the Hospital Para Crudos, which translates as “a hospital for hangovers”. The cure? Beef stomach, or goat’s stomach, fish tripe and fried cactus. And of course you have got about four or five different chillies you can put on them as well. On the other hand, you may be better off with a paracetamol and a coffee….
main image: Baja fish tacos, image courtesy of Stacy, Flickr creative commons