Hometown Hungers: Baja Fish Tacos

A standout in a sea of tacos, this beach-centric bite features battered fish piled onto sturdy corn tortillas and crowned with a tangle of shredded cabbage and a tangy white sauce.

The beaches of northern Mexico have long been synonymous with surf, sand … and fish tacos.

Though no one can be certain exactly where or how this seemingly multicultural creation came about, one widely held theory is that Japanese fisherman working along the Pacific shores introduced the art of tempura to the local denizens of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, which eventually led to the birth of the beloved fish taco.

In the 1960s, fish tacos became a common sight at the roadside stands and market stalls that dot the coastal cities and towns of Baja California, with Ensenada often cited in Mexico as the birthplace of the dish as we know it today.

As the fish taco continued to spread through Baja California, it was only a matter of time before the beach-centric bite was discovered by surfers and spring breakers from the other side of the border. One such Southern Californian, Ralph Rubio, became so fascinated with the dish that he partnered with his father to open a taco spot in San Diego in 1983. That first Rubio's restaurant has since grown into a successful fast-casual chain with nearly 200 locales spread throughout California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Florida.

“For the perfect fish taco, we like wild Alaska pollock for its mild flavor and firm texture,” Rubio says. “We dust the pollock in flour and then dip the pollock in a light beer batter flavored with a good Mexican lager, flour, mustard, oregano, pepper and other spices, and we deep-fry to a crispy, golden color.” The fried fish is piled onto a stone-ground corn tortilla and topped with a white sauce made with sour cream and mayo, then finished with salsa fresca, a flurry of green cabbage and a squeeze of lime. “This is our original Baja-style Rubio’s fish taco! Simple but delicious,” Rubio says.

If you crave a battered fish taco but can't take a trip to Baja California or San Diego, check out Food Network’s gallery of top spots outside the region that serve tantalizing takes on the traditional recipe.

Photo courtesy of Rubio's
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