Tacos de Pescado

I wouldn’t call my mother an adventurous eater. While she will try new things, with the exception of sushi and oysters, two things she has no interest in ever trying, she usually doesn’t stray too far from what she knows. When she does find something new that she really likes, she will go out of her way to get it.

Case in point, my mother has thrown caution to the wind when seeking out a good fish taco. This obsession took us to some of the rougher neighborhoods in San Diego. I won’t say that we did this on purpose, but once when visiting my brother in San Diego, she and I went on a search for authentic fish tacos. We got lost. Very lost.

The cute shops and inviting cafés were replaced by auto repair shops and semi-abandoned strip malls. Luckily, the place was rife with food offerings, without a chain restaurant in site. Blindly picking a spot, we pulled into a parking lot of a restaurant. It was a nondescript white building. There were only a handful of people there, all of whom made note of our entrance.

The menu was not in English, but we were able to figure out that “tacos de pescado” meant fish tacos. We ordered them and were happily served perfectly prepared fish tacos. Mission accomplished, only we then had to find our way home, which, without a GSP system, was no small feat.

My mother has often complained that a good San Diego style fish taco is hard to find. She is very particular about what makes a proper one. They must use a light white fish, be lightly battered and fried, topped with shredded cabbage and a white sauce. She is a purist and doesn’t like guacamole or anything else messing up her taco. I, on the other hand, adore guac and whole-heartily add it to any taco I get my hands on.

She was delighted to find out that my husband makes fish tacos just the way she likes them. When we visit, they have worked out a deal. He will make fish tacos for her if she makes her delicious chicken-fried steak for him. Both think that they are getting the better end of that deal. I, for a change, get to sit just back and eat!

Tacos de Pescado

1 pound of fresh fish fillets, firm white fish like tilapia or catfish
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon chili powder, divided
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup cooking oil (I use olive oil)
6 soft corn tortillas (2 tortillas per person)

Cabbage Slaw (recipe below)


  • Rinse fish fillets in cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Add olive oil to a large skillet. Heat to medium-high heat, staying below the oil’s smoking point.
  • Sprinkle the lime juice over the fish.
  • Mix half of the salt, pepper and chili powder together and sprinkle the mixture on the fish.
  • Mix cornmeal with the remaining spices.
  • Dredge the fish in the cornmeal mixture.
  • Place fish in skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes, then flip. Cook until golden brown and fish is cooked through (cooking time depends on the thickness of the fillets). Drain on a paper towel lined plate.
  • Warm the tortillas either in a skillet on the stove or in an oven.
  • Place fish in the center of the tortilla. Top with cabbage slaw and guacamole. Fold tortilla in half and enjoy!

Serves four.

Cabbage Slaw

2 cups cabbage, chopped or shredded
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper


  • In a medium-size bowl, mix lime juice, yogurt, mayonnaise and chili powder.
  • Add cabbage and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

2 Responses to “Tacos de Pescado”

  1. Susan Donckers says:

    Great recipe! I actually did something like this last week – your’s looks alot better! I didn’t know your Mom liked them!!

  2. Pam says:

    When I was pregnant with my son, I actually flew home from Thailand where I lived just to eat my way from one end of Philadelphia to the other (my favorite east coast city). I dragged my friend along on a 20 block hike for the best fish tacos in South Philadelphia. Worth every step of the journey. Thanks for my own recipe!

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