It's time to take back the fish taco.
Enough with the soft, mushy, grilled “healthy” fish tacos. Find a different name for it–tacos de guacareada come to mind–and leave the original tacos de pescado estilo Ensenada alone. A real fish taco is a piece of deep-fried fish–preferably shark, but any moist white fish will do in a pinch–on a tortilla.
Again–if it's not deep-fried, it's not a real fish taco. Period.
There are dozens of fish taco stands in Ensenada, naturally, and at
least half of them don't give a damn about the product they sell. I've
seen frozen Canadian fish from the Walmart on the south end of town
being defrosted in fish taco stands while fishermen haul the day's catch
out of the water a dozen meters away; I've seen people use Van de
Kamp's, for God's sake. Who wants to drive 200 miles to eat what you can
buy in the freezer section at 7-Eleven?
No, you need a place
that starts with fresh fish, cuts it in front of you, dries and seasons
it before dipping it and frying it just until it flakes, but not so long
it gets dry. You need a cazo of oil that is hot enough not to
leave the fish grease-soaked. In short, you have to see the process from
start to finish to avoid being overcharged for porquería.
you find that place–and there are plenty of honest fish tacos in
Ensenada–and you order a taco. Ah, but now the flame wars start. Crema or mayonesa?
Cabbage or lettuce? Do you squeeze the lime on the fish or squeeze it
on after? Is guacamole ever appropriate? Fish taco lovers, even ones who
understand what a fish taco is supposed to be, get into stupid fights
online about this. The best stands, then, play Switzerland and just hand
you fried fish on a double tortilla, then gesture toward an array of
sauces and condiments.
Tacos de Pescado Los Originales, on Av.
Gastélum just inland from Juárez (5th Street) is one of those places.
There are others nearly as good, but Bill got me hooked on this one, and the lines are usually mercifully short. The fish is cazón–school shark, which is plentiful off the coast of
Baja California despite its overfished status in Europe–cut into meaty
slabs, seasoned with enough salt, then dipped into a simple batter and
deep fried. I always go the canonical route with my tacos, which cost 19
pesos ($1.50) each: cabbage, crema, salsa fresca (what we call pico de
gallo), lime juice, and a few dots of the darkest salsa de chile de
árbol I can find.
There's nothing fancy about this place–there
are stools around it where you can sit and watch the action as you
eat–but the tacos are absolutely amazing, and the stand is visited
almost exclusively by Mexicans (the bus station is a block away),
because tourists don't wander that far inland.
It's just the
apotheosis of the Ensenada-style fish taco; once you eat the tacos here,
you won't accept the crap dished out in this country in the name of tacos de pescado ever again.
Tacos de Pescado Los Originales is located on Av. Gastélum between Av. Juárez (Calle 5a) and Calle Sexta (6a) in the central tourist zone of Ensenada. From the enormous Mexican flag on the pier–as good a landmark as any–walk inland on Av. Alvarado to 5th Street (the Pemex station), turn left, walk three blocks to Av. Gastélum (Waldo's store), then turn right.