Living in LA makes one prone to taco cravings.
There are taco trucks in every corner of the town. There are street tacos in grocery stores. There are tacos on the menus at even the really fancy restaurants.
Tacos are engrained in the Los Angeles food culture. They come in traditional styles from every nook and cranny of Mexico. They come in Korean flavors if that’s what you’re looking for.
Tacos in LA ain’t no joke.
The taco craving hits me often, but the trucks are typically a after-the-sun-goes-down type affair. That might be why I’ve started keeping a 100 pack of tiny tortillas in my fridge at all times. And why I’ve started getting creative with putting anything that’s in my fridge into a shell.
Why be boring with your tacos? Shrimp, lamb, crab, black beans, even scrambled eggs. If you’re craving a taco, look in your fridge and put your own damn spin on a taco. Make it yours.
Most importantly, scarf them down like you were standing in a gas station parking lot under the street lights, surrounded by people who had just spilled out of the bars. People who have just gotten off of working the late shift (usually us). People who are just scraping together the few dollars for a meal. And people who know so little Spanish that they panic and just order three chicken tacos.
The tacos I crave at home are different from the meaty, porky, fatty tacos I love from the late night trucks. At home, I usually go for something lighter, something with more crunchy, fresh, seasonal ingredients. I’ll sauté up some shrimp or sear some fish I’ve rubbed with cayenne, cumin, and whatever other spices I’ve found in the cabinet. This time I had a bit of leftover tilapia. Light, mild, flaky fish that’s easy to season and cook up in a cast iron pan.
Hit with a sweet and tangy splash of orange juice in the pan, topped with crunchy, earthy and somewhat peppery radishes and cucumbers, and seasoned with mint and cilantro.
The way I see it – homemade or eaten out in the Los Angeles wild – the more late night tiny tacos, the better.
Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber & Radish Salsa
Tilapia (or other white fish) filet
Cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, cinnamon
Mint & Cilantro
2 cloves garlic
For the salsa: Thinly slice radishes and cucumbers into consistent sized pieces. I used a mandolin to slice them thin, then cut them up into a salsa all together with my knife. Add a small handful of chopped mint and cilantro, minced garlic, and the juice from half of a lime. Season with salt and pepper.
For the fish: Generously season the fish with salt, coriander and cumin, and then with a dash of cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat until hot, then add olive oil. When the oil gets shiny and hot, gently add the fish to the pan, laying it starting closest to you to avoid splattering. Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, until well seared and crispy. Then use a fish spatula to flip. Add a splash of orange juice to the pan to get up all of the stuck-on bits and create a bit of a sauce. Cook an additional 4-5 minutes or until cooked through and flaky. Pull apart fish into pieces with a fork.
For the tacos: If you have a gas stove, turn on a burner and heat tortillas directly on the flames – usually about 30 seconds on each side, or just until they start to char and smoke (not burn!). Pile your tortilla high with pieces of fish, then top with salsa, another squeeze of lime, and your favorite hot sauce. Eat them off of a paper plate out in the street for the full effect.