It's quite a lovely proposition, a tempura batter fried filet of dogfish, angel shark, mako shark, or a variety of other firm white fish in a warm tortilla with fresh and pickled vegetables,salsa, crema agria(mayo with 2% milk), maybe some guacamole salsa?
It is a popular belief that Japanese fishermen brought tempura technique to Baja, which they acquired from the Portuguese, but make no such careless culinary revisionism, the Baja fish taco,or taco de pescado, is a 100% Mexican creation. All cuisines evolve from outside influences, and no cuisine is pure. Why isn't Italian cuisine called a fusion when it relies on tomatoes from the Americas, and pasta from Asia? Is Italian really Chinese-Mexican?No, it's Italian. Cuisine is the expression of a culture or people, not cooking devices, techniques, or ingredients.
These fish tacos are available all throughout the Baja peninsula, from Tijuana to Cabo, but Ensenada is the epicenter, and considered the birthplace of this iconic food. It's one of the first things one thinks of when planning a trip to Baja. "Fish tacos, dude!"(high fives)
Surprisingly, there hasn't been a thorough investigation of Ensenada's fish taco stands, with just a handful of places receiving any mention. Chris Cognac hit up Puesto El Fenix and Don Zefe in November of 2006, relying on predictable sources, El Fenix always comes up, and many would consider it the best. Don Zefe rated very poorly on my run, one of the worst,and not worth revisiting. Others have written about El Fenix, but didn't even go to the stand, which is the best of the two El Fenix fish taco establishments, just a block away from each other.
Over the course of four years with multiple visits to a total of ten stands, I have compiled a Baja fish taco guide that ranges from the tourist trap stalls next to the Black Market(fish market) to what I call the Holy Trinity of Ensenada fish tacos. This list focuses on the traditional stands, or shacks that serve fish and shrimp tacos, although two taquerias are included due to their reputations. Fish tacos are found everywhere in Ensenada, restaurants, cafes, stands, and taquerias, but they are done best in a stand using a comal de acero, a stainless steel disc shaped comal with a concave well for frying. All ten locations listed here use the comal de acero, use a similar type of corn tortilla, and have the same basic condiments.
I considered the quality of the fish, cooking technique, condiments, and overall flavor. The stands are ranked in order from least to greatest. This is not a top ten list, but an ordering of the range of fish taco options and the most well known stands to tourists and locals.
For most short stays in Ensenada, a fish taco at the various stalls next to the fish market is your first encounter with this Baja temptation. It was the same for me a decade ago. The barkers stand outside and yell for you to come to their stand, and insist that they are the best.
#10-Mariscos El Norteno
Located across from the Black Market
These places are identical, all stocking the same tarros(large beer glasses) filled with the same salsas and condiments and covered in plastic. So, I randomly selected Mariscos El Norteno.
It's certainly a turn off when everybody has the same stuff. These glasses actually depress me.
Tacos Don Zefe is a taqueria, and one of the well known destinations thanks to a story by Chris Cognac.
on the corner of 6th and Gastellum
on the corner of Juarez and Floresta
On the corner of Juarez and Castillo
#3-Tacos La Floresta
on the corner of Floresta and Juarez
This taco is more boldly flavored, a noteworthy taco. If this stand is why you're praising El Fenix, then you are justified, if not, just walk one block north on Av. Espinosa and your perspective shall improve by leaps and bounds. I never saw the reason in plugging El Fenix until I stopped here.
on the corner of Juarez and Gastellum
They've got everything here:fresh cabbage, pickled cabbage, six to eight salsas, toasted chile de arbol, mayo, and crema agria. Consistently, the fish sings with virtuosity. I would drive here just for a fish taco, and I have.
Like Puesto Fenix, the seasoning here in upfront, the cooking is sublime, but the difference is in the condiments, and the overall flavor of this fish taco. It's good enough to make a frat boy moon his buddies and lose himself in base hyperbole. "Oh my god, dude, this taco is like.....SO awesome."
It's the end of a day glorious day tasting wine in the Valle de Guadalupe, and I appoach Highway 1. Do I head north, or do I head into town? Perhaps, just one taco before I hit the road. I'm not really hungry, but my craving can't be denied.
Fish tacos, or tacos de pescado, as they are known in Mexico, are a universal pleasure. You're not wrong to want to hit up the best while in town. Your expectations are high, so allow me to take you to the promised land of milk and honey. Set your sights on my beloved Fish Tacos Ensenada, the famed Puesto Fenix, and the local favorite Tacos La Floresta, and experience the best fish tacos Ensenada has to offer.
Ensenada, B.C., Mexico