When I tell people I grew up in San Diego, the usual response is one of envy. Oooh, really? Do you surf? I go patiently silent as they mention the zoo! The weather! The Mexican food! Why did you leave? they ask. I can say flat out that San Diego is no place for a redhead. But it is a great place for fish tacos, which I started eating at a very young age, mostly on family weekend camping trips in Baja.
My parents would pack us kids in the (woody) station wagon on Friday afternoons, and we’d bomb down to Rosarito Beach. We’d caravan with a couple other families from the neighborhood, one of which owned a trailer on the beach there. Piles of parents and kids would morph into Mexico-time, and no matter when we went, it suddenly felt like summer.
A couple of the fathers were divers. They would head out, Jacques Cousteau-style, in the early morning before the rest of us were awake; and they’d come back into camp mid-morning with mesh bags full of abalone and lobster. That night, sunburned (Mexico is no place for a redhead either) and famished, we’d eat lobster tacos around the fire pit, slopping salsa on our bare legs as it oozed out of the fresh tortillas we’d bought in town earlier that day.
Since then, fish tacos have not just crossed the border into San Diego, they’ve made their way even farther north into Canada. While that seems surprising to a San Diego native, it also seems just right. This taco recipe is one of the most popular dishes at Sobo Restaurant (Sobo=Sophisticated Bohemian, a name we wish we’d coined), which got its start in a purple food truck behind a British Columbia surf shop. It adds fruit salsa to the mix (definitely not part of my fish taco childhood) and is decidedly its own marvelous, locavorian dish. No surprise that Saveur magazine has called Sobo “Perhaps the most exciting lunch stand in North America.”
Whether you’re in New York (snapper!), Texas (bass!), or British Columbia (salmon and halibut!), fish tacos have arrived. And you don’t have to get sunburned to try them.
- Fresh Fruit Salsa (see below)
- 1 lb wild salmon, boneless and skinless
- 1 lb halibut, boneless and skinless
- 1 Tbsp salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 cup small-diced red onion (about 1 onion)
- ½ cup puréed canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
- 16 crispy hard taco shells
- Prepare the fresh fruit salsa.
- Cut the salmon and halibut into 1-inch cubes and season with the salt.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add the fish and fry for about 3 minutes, until just cooked. Add the chipotle chilies and sauté for 2 to 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Fill the taco shells halfway with the fish mixture, then top with the salsa. Serve immediately, two tacos per person.
- 4 kiwi fruits, diced small
- ½ pineapple, diced small
- 1 mango, diced small
- 1 small papaya, diced small
- 2 avocados, diced small
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Combine all the ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use. This salsa will stand up for about 24 hours, after which time the fruit begins to break down.