When I was a kid, the word ‘taco’ conjured up thoughts of a crispy tortilla, greasy southwestern style beef, as well as the inevitable fail as a seven year old attempts to bite into a drippy shell of goodness without getting it all over their shirt.
There’s plenty to be said for those kinds of tacos and they’ll have their day. But the fish taco, they’re a horse of a different color.
In a grand sense, there’s not a whole lot that’s new about the fish taco. They have been eaten for hundreds of years in Mexico, but it only seems they gained traction in the US in the last 30 years or so. The fish taco you now find at street carts and Tex Mex restaurants is a varied one. The fish can be fried, grilled, or blackened; toppings are spare or over the top. There’s a mayo-based sauce. There ain’t one. The list goes on. But it seemed the one (sadly) defining factor for all these variations was that they were hardly vegetarian-friendly. That is, until now.
I really can’t take all the credit on this one. It was only after happening on Gardein™ Golden Fishless Fillets that it even occurred to me a vegan fish taco was within reach. And not even a sub-par fish taco either, but one that actually was as good (if not better!) than its omnivorous doppleganger. I have to say, in the past vegetarian seafood has been probably been the scariest category of mock meat product I’d encountered. Now don’t get me wrong: I think it’s amazing that there are some companies that actually produce full-size sculpted vegetarian lobsters. However, my awe in respect to these products is more novelty and less “I want to cram that.” I have to say, this is a bias that I’m trying to work past. When I saw these fishless fillets magically appear in the grocery frozen food section, my first sentiment was “not in this lifetime.” But seriously, these fillets are damn good, fish-stick esque without a hint of gross seafood aftertaste or texture identity crisis.
These tacos are “Baja” in the sense that they feature the classic cilantro slaw and chipotle “cream” sauce which I short-cutted using pre-made vegan sour cream. If you aren’t a fan, you can always substitute a homemade vegan sour cream of your choosing. I really went all out with the toppings here, but feel free to cater the condiments to what you like. I stand by the pickled onions, (they’re legit) but if you’re a minimalist pare down the list of sides as you see fit. Then all that’s left to do is roll up your sleeves, because it’s taco time!
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbs unprocessed turbinado sugar
- 1 tbs pickling liquid from jarred jalepanos
- ½ cup vegan sour cream
- 4 tbs oil divided
- ¾ tsp salt, divided
- dash garlic powder
- dash cayenne
- 1 tbs warm water
- 1 tbs oil
- 1 8 oz. package green cabbage cole slaw mix
- handful rough chop cilantro
- Juice of half a lime
- dash cumin
- 1 bag Gardein fishless fillet, defrosted
- 6 soft corn tortillas
- ½ large avocado, thinly sliced
- Lime wedges and cilantro to garnish
- For pickled onions, dissolve the salt and sugar in pickling liquid, water, and apple cider vinegar in a small saucepan on the stove. Heat until simmering and then pour over onions in a jar or bowl. Allow to sit for at least one hour.
- To make the spicy vegan crema, stir together the vegan sour cream, ½ tsp salt, garlic powder, cayenne, warm water, and 1 tbs of oil. Set aside.
- For lime cumin salsa, whisk together 1 tbs oil with lime juice. Stir in cumin, ¼ tsp salt, cilantro and then fold in coleslaw mix. Chill until use.
- For fishless fillets, swirl remaining 2 tbs oil in a large frying pan and heat over medium high fillets sizzle when added to the pan. Fry 3-5 minutes on each side on medium heat until crisp and heated through. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate, then cut each fillet into 4 pieces. Keep warm.
- For tortillas, heat individually over gas flame on the stovetop, medium high heat, 20 seconds per side until lightly charred. Be careful doing this! Tortillas can ignite. If this isn't your thing, or you don't have a gas stove, you can wrap all six tortillas lightly in a damp paper towel and microwave on high 20 seconds until warm.
- For serving, place tortilla in the center of the plate. Place about ⅓ cup coleslaw in the middle of the tortilla and top with 4 pieces of the fishless fillet. Place a couple avocado slices and slices of pickled onion on top and drizzle with vegan spicy crema. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro. Repeat with remaining 5 tortillas. Makes six tacos.