For me, they first time I had a love affair with the mahi mahi was in Cancun, Mexico. No, I wasn’t on a wild spring break fling but coming through off of a cruise ship excursion. We had been on the high seas for about 4 days I think and had my fill of the endless buffet gorging festivities backed by the crew making sure my wine glass NEVER hit under half full. It is certain you will never starve on a cruise ship or be sober, quite a makeup for the ultimate vacation extravaganza.
Needless to say, I was ready for something fresh, of excellent quantity, local, and away from the floating city on the sea. I was longing for a table just for the two of us instead of two thousand of my now closest friends.
Because my better half can speak Spanish, we were able to find some locals to strike up a friendly conversation and learn about the happening hotspots where tourists don’t trespass. Apparently, we passed some sort of test that got us carte blanche service inclusive of an escort taking us to the secret location where my love affair began.
We arrived at the locale and I looked to Enrique and said, “we are never going to make it alive, he has taken us to our demise.” The building was wooden, almost like a barn, worn down and with two huge doors and no outside windows. He opened the rickety old door and bowed down waving us through as if we were entering his personal castle. We reluctantly entered and the closing of the door sealed our fate, we were in and no turning back.
Apparently someone had phoned ahead to expect us because as soon as the door slammed, Jose the proprietor greeted us with a welcome hug. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw there were actually tables and people in them, laughing. Okay, this was an eating establishment. Whew…
Jose led us through the maze of tables and suddenly we around a corner and both of us gasped in disbelief, the restaurant opened to the whitest beach I had ever seen leading into the endless aqua blue Caribbean Ocean. Dotted all along the beach front were palapas with white wicker tables and chairs and each one had it’s own waiter/waitress. If you wished, you could chose to have a massage while enjoying the view, after all the table was yours for the afternoon. We froze in awe, no wonder this was disguised as a warehouse; the entire country would descend daily to drink in the perfection. How did hit this jackpot?
At this point, I don’t think either of us cared if the food was good and probably would have been fine missing the sailing time; this was heavens oasis and we were going to stay to the very last possible moment. We traded off with a massage between our starter of mariscos and the main event of fish tacos. I sipped a cerveza and the sea breeze kept us cool and refreshed, it was simply magical.
We were so lost in time that we almost forgot the whole reason for the excursion, to experience the renowned fish tacos. It was time and we were ready. We were given two choices, either grilled or fried and we decided on one of each.
They arrived on a simple black platter, piled on house made corn tortillas and a plethora of fresh garnishing’s from the owners garden. Red and green cabbage tossed with a little limejuice, roasted corn and bell peppers, sautéed green onion with jalapeno, and queso fresco. The sauce was a simple tomato wonder and complemented everything perfectly. This is as close to paradise as I will ever get…
So here is my rendition of the dish. I chose to do a marinade on the fish to mimic the spice and depth of flavor I remembered on those sandy shores of Mexico. I finish it off in the oven to ensure the fish stays moist and flake and the rest is up to you to decide…..
Enjoy your trip to the Caribbean Sea and make sure you take in a cerveza or two….
- 1 pound white flaky fish, such as mahi mahi or orata
- ⅛ cup canola oil
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
- 1 jalapeno, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 8 corn tortillas
- shredded napa cabbage
- queso fresco
- 1 bunch thinly sliced green onion
- 1 corn, grilled and cut off cob
- 2 bell peppers, red and orange, diced
- chopped cilantro leaves
- roasted tomato salsa, recipe follows
- Roasted tomato salsa:
- 6-8 tomatoes, placed on parchment paper and on cookie sheet
- 1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place fish on a medium size pan with sides. Whisk together the oil, lime juice, chipotle, jalapeno, and cilantro and pour over the fish. Let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.
- While fish is marinating, cook corn on grill and take off cob. Heat a sauté pan over medium and add a little oil, green onion, and bell pepper. Cook until blistered and season with salt and pepper, add corn.
- Put in oven and cook the fish for 15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes then flake the fish with a fork.
- Place the tortillas stovetop and grill both sides for 30 seconds
- Roasted Tomato Salsa:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put tomatoes on a baking tray and cook for 30 minutes or until soft. P Heat oil in medium saucepan, add onions and garlic and cook until soft. In a food processor, add tomatoes and onion and garlic mixture and puree until smooth, salt and pepper, to taste.
- Assembly tacos by dividing tortillas among plates, put fish on top and then garnish with desired toppings and roasted tomato salsa.