Baja creation gets a Tex-Mex makeover
Baja California is often credited with inventing the fish taco.
But no matter where the first person wrapped the first tortilla around a piece of cooked fish, shrimp tacos have become about as Texas as bluebonnets and barbecue.
In this version, locally caught shrimp are fried golden and crispy, then placed down the corn tortilla’s equator atop a nest of warm slaw. Jalapeños do double time in this dish, appearing pickled and in the smoky mayonnaise sauce.
This taco might have flown in from the West Coast, but it’s now fully at home here on the Texas shore.
Beach Fried Shrimp Tacos
½ cup mayonnaise
1 chipotle in adobo, stemmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
½ small purple cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
3 large carrots, shredded
Vegetable oil, for frying
24 large shrimp (about 1¼ pounds), shelled and deveined
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
12 corn tortillas, warmed
4 pickled jalapeños, thinly sliced
½ small red onion, chopped
½ cup coarsely chopped
Lime wedges, for serving
Blend the mayonnaise with the chipotle in a mini food processor. Season with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate.
Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add the butter, cabbage and carrots. Cook over high heat until the cabbage is browned in spots, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl.
In a small skillet, blister tortillas over high heat. Wrap in towels to keep warm and set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat 2½ inches of vegetable oil to 350 F.
While oil is heating to temperature, combine the cornstarch and flour in one bowl; season with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs with a small amount of water in a second bowl. Place the panko in a third bowl. Bread the shrimp by dipping them first in the flour mix, then the egg wash, then the breadcrumbs. Fry in batches until golden and crispy, about 2 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels.
Spoon some of the cabbage into the center of each tortilla and top with fried shrimp. Drizzle with the chipotle mayonnaise and sprinkle with some of the pickled jalapeños, red onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
Pro tip: Don’t overcrowd the pan when frying. Overcrowding the pan will lower the oil’s temperature, which can result in food that’s not properly deep-fried. High temperatures ensure the batter reacts and creates a barrier between the oil and the food.
Alicia Cahill is the owner of The Kitchen Chick, 528 23rd St. in Galveston.